David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy

Solo en Inglès

Art historian and David Smith biographer Michael Brenson, art historian Sarah Hamill, sculptor Charles Ray, and Peter Stevens, director of the David Smith Estate discuss a selection of works from the exhibition David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy. The audio guide also includes commentary by sculptor David Smith.

David Smith’s Photographs

0:00

Narrator: David Smith first began taking photographs in the early 1930s. His first pictures were experimental. He made double exposures, and used collage techniques analogous to those he was exploring in sculpture. As time went on his use of photography became more pragmatic. Sarah Hamill.

Sarah Hamill:  In the mid 1940s after he moved up to Bolton Landing, New York, which is around 200 miles north of New York City, he started photographing his works himself. Previously, professional photographers who had been hired by his dealer were the photographers of his work.

If you look at some of his photographs, what you'll notice is that he's not photographing them in ways that many sculptures were photographed at the time. He doesn't use a drop cloth as a backdrop. He doesn't use artificial lighting. Instead, he places his sculptures outside in the landscape surrounding his Bolton Landing studio and photographs them in relationship to that landscape. He uses ambient light. He also repeatedly used low vantage points and these vantage points had the effect of flattening his sculptures to a single plane.

One of the things that I think is important about his photographs is that in them, he's testing out different ways of viewing his work.

Narrator: David Smith first began taking photographs in the early 1930s. His first pictures were experimental. He made double exposures, and used collage techniques analogous to those he was exploring in sculpture. As time went on his use of photography became more pragmatic. Sarah Hamill.

Sarah Hamill:  In the mid 1940s after he moved up to Bolton Landing, New York, which is around 200 miles north of New York City, he started photographing his works himself. Previously, professional photographers who had been hired by his dealer were the photographers of his work.

If you look at some of his photographs, what you'll notice is that he's not photographing them in ways that many sculptures were photographed at the time. He doesn't use a drop cloth as a backdrop. He doesn't use artificial lighting. Instead, he places his sculptures outside in the landscape surrounding his Bolton Landing studio and photographs them in relationship to that landscape. He uses ambient light. He also repeatedly used low vantage points and these vantage points had the effect of flattening his sculptures to a single plane.

One of the things that I think is important about his photographs is that in them, he's testing out different ways of viewing his work.


David Smith (1906–1965), _Blue Construction_, 1938. Sheet steel with baked-enamel finish, 36 ¼ x 28 ½ x 30 in. (92.1 x 72.4 x 76.2 cm). The Estate of David Smith; courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington. © The Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photograph courtesy The Estate of David Smith