NARRATOR: Cubi V is eight feet tall, and composed entirely of steel boxes that were fabricated to Smith’s specifications. But the sculpture doesn’t feel coldly industrial or unapproachably large. Energy spins out from its central square, and comes to a kind of exclamation point in the box that tips off-axis. It’s a lyrical, playful balancing act—one that echoes the joyful motion of the human body. We are focusing today on Smith’s use of geometry. Some artists who emphasized geometric form wished to achieve pure abstraction. Smith wasn’t one of those—he never wanted to get representation out of his work.
MICHAELBRENSON: He wanted to give people something that they could respond to, some kind of associative trigger.
NARRATOR: Michael Brenson is a writer and critic. He’s writing a biography of David Smith.
MICHAELBRENSON: And that trigger very often for him was connected with certain ceremonial or ritual purposes. He never explained his work. He wrote a lot. He talked a lot. But he was extremely reluctant to explain his work. I think one of the reasons for that is that he was so committed, almost ideologically committed, to the freedom of interpretation of people in front of it.