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Storm King Art Center, sculpture park and museum located in Mountainville, Orange co., SE N.Y., some 55 mi (89 km) north of New York City. Founded in 1960, it is comprised of 500 acres (202 hectares) of lawns, fields, hills, and forests, which provide a unique backdrop for sculpture, and a Norman-style museum (1935). The center has a large permanent collection of sculpture, much of it displayed on the grounds. Its holdings were mainly created after 1960 and are often monumental in scale and predominantly abstract. The core of the collection is a group of 13 large works by David Smith

Synopsis

Among the greatest American sculptors of the 20th century, David Smith was the first to work with welded metal. He wove a rich mythology around this rugged work, often talking of the formative experiences he had in his youth working in a car body workshop. Yet this only disguised a brilliant mind which fruitfully combined a range of influences from European modernism - Cubism, Surrealism and Constructivism. It also concealed the motivations of a somewhat private man whose art was marked by expressions of trauma. Smith was close to painters such as Robert Motherwell, and in many respects he translated the painterly concerns of the Abstract Expressionists into sculpture. But far from being a follower, his achievement in sculpture was distinctive and influential. He brought qualities of industrial manufacturing into the language of art, and proved to be an important influence on Minimalism.

Key Ideas / Information

• Collage was an important influence on Smith, and it shaped his work in various ways. It inspired him to see that a sculpture, just like a paper collage, could be made up of various existing elements. It also encouraged him to combine found objects like tools into his sculptures; later it influenced the way he contrasted figurative motifs; later still it informed the way he assembled the large-scale geometric abstract sculptures of his last days.

• One of Smith's most important formal innovations was to abandon the idea of a 'core' in sculpture. The notion was pervasive in modern sculpture, fostering an approach that saw sculptural form springing from a center that was almost imagined to be organic and alive. But Smith replaced it with the idea of 'drawing in space.' He would use thin wire to produce linear, transparent sculptures with figurative motifs at their edges. Later he would use large geometric forms to create structures reminiscent of the vigorous gestures of the Abstract Expressionists.

• The idea of the totem, a tribal art-form that represents a group of related people, was an inspiration to Smith, and something for which he tried to find a modern form. Freud's ideas about totems led him to think of them as a fitting symbol for a world riven by violence, but it also suggested the idea that the sculptural object might keep the viewer at a distance, that it might almost be an object of fear and reverence.

• One of the means by which Smith sought to keep the viewer at a distance from his sculptures - emotionally and intellectually - was to devise innovative approaches to composition. These were aimed at making it difficult for the viewer to perceive or imagine the entirety of the object at once, forcing us to consider it part by part. One method he used was to disperse pictorial motifs around the edge of the sculpture, so that our eyes have to move from one element to another. Another was to make the sculptures look and seem very different from the front than they do from the side.

David Smith's career encompasses a range of styles, from the figurative expressionism of his early relief sculptures, to the organic abstraction of his Surrealist-influenced work, to the geometric constructions of his later years. In this respect he drew on many of the same European modernist influences as his peers, the Abstract Expressionists. And, like them, one of his most important advances lay in adapting the language of Surrealism to post-war concerns

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