This comprehensive sourcebook is destined to become a lasting and definitive reference on the art and aesthetic philosophy of the American artist David Smith (1906–1965). A pioneer of twentieth-century modernism, Smith was renowned for the expansive formal and conceptual ambitions of his broadly diverse and inventive welded-steel abstractions. His groundbreaking achievements drew freely on cubism, surrealism, and constructivism, profoundly influencing later movements such as minimalism and environmental art. By radically challenging older conventions of monolithic figuration and refuting arbitrary distinctions between painters and sculptors, Smith asserted sculpture’s equal role in advancing modern art.
This compilation of Smith’s poems, sketchbook notes, essays, lectures, letters to the editor, reviews, and interviews underscores the ways his writing articulated his private identity and promoted the social ideals that made him a key participant in contemporary discourses surrounding modernism, art and politics, and sculptural aesthetics. Each text is annotated by Susan J. Cooke with historical and contextual information that reflects Smith’s process of continually reviewing and revising his writings in response to his evolving aspirations as a visual artist.
Susan J. Cooke is Associate Director of the Estate of David Smith. Formerly an Associate Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, she is the author of essays on David Smith, Jean Dubuffet, and Ralston Crawford.
“The David Smith that emerges here is impossible to simplify. He is learned and curious. He is obsessive, embattled, contradictory, and fierce. He is an artist of the utmost seriousness and commitment. By making available the persistence and intensity of his intellectual and aesthetic concerns over thirty years, this volume will dramatically alter the way one of America’s greatest artists is understood. It will be welcomed by artists, art historians, and critics, as well as those interested in the artistic process and how Smith and his generation defined themselves in relation to, and often against, the art world and society.”—Michael Brenson, art critic, art historian, and member of the sculpture faculty of Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts
“This volume is the first comprehensive edition of David Smith’s writings, and it makes an important and authoritative contribution to the study of modernism. Susan Cooke has unearthed new materials from the archives and tracked down all published writings to represent Smith’s authorial voice in its range and scope. By presenting Smith’s writings in their diversity—private, poetic notes, teaching documents, and public statements—the book introduces Smith’s craft of writing as heterogeneous and profound. This will be an immensely valuable resource for years to come.”—Sarah Hamill, Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at Sarah Lawrence College