Page 12 - Studio International - August 1966
P. 12

Opposite Raw iron sculptures based on the theme of the circle.
                                                                                  They rested on his grounds at Bolton Landing on Lake George,
                                                                                  New York. These sculptures, done in 1962-3, went through a state
                                                                                  of 'preliminary painting' after months of contemplation and
                                                                                  changes in their colour, done with auto paint. Smith hoped to
                                                                                  arrive at exactitude of colour for each sculpture after several
                                                                                  years of aesthetic 'seasoning'.

                                                                                  made so much-so good, so easy, in such a condensed
                                                                                  time as in my thirty-day Italian phase-that was damn
                                                                                  near a piece a day.'
                                                                                   Part of David Smith's productivity certainly had to do
                                                                                  with his beautiful relationship with the workers who, as
                                                                                  we all learn, are apt to treat abstract art with diffi-
                                                                                  dence or ridicule. Every abstract painter knows, from the
                                                                                  way they handle his work, that moving men are uncon-
                                                                                  sciously art critics, and not very generous ones. But Smith
                                                                                  had a socialist commitment, and honoured workers as
                                                                                  they honoured him.
                                                                                   David Smith said: 'I felt in full ease with the workmen
                                                                                  despite different language-I learned some Italian
                                                                                   (Berlitz) -they some English-I am as much factory as
                                                                                  professor, having worked in auto and locomotive fac-
                                                                                  tories in U.S. for a living roughly equal to teaching time -
                                                                                   I enjoyed the confidence of the workmen- they brought
                                                                                  in the [food] specialities of Voltri and home cuisine for
                                                                                  our 3 p.m. wine break-mussels, snails, birds, fungi-we
        David Smith's study at Bolton   of Paul Bunyan lived on. But this was only part of a more  ate together, exchanged confidences-differences. I
        Landing                 generalized American trait, that, given world enough  think we were all a little sad that it ended.'
                                and time, anything is possible. In his case, he made a   The twenty-six sculptures were sent from Voltri to
                                quantity of great sculpture of a size never realized by an  Spoleto by train. David had wanted to make one of the
                                individual before nor of such weight-immobilized by  sculptures out of an abandoned flatcar, but it was too
                                weight, even when mounted on bronze wheels.        feeble to travel the tracks. Four sculptures were
                                 Or, speaking of quantity, consider his involvement in  mounted in the town, the others in the old Roman amphi-
                                the Spoleto Festival in Italy, organized by Gian Carlo  theatre. Smith, who gave one to Spoleto on behalf of
                                Menotti.                                           `Italsider', told me: 'The mayor said he liked it and all
                                 In the spring of 1962, David Smith, along with such  seemed acceptable when I left inl ate June-Professor

                                celebrated sculptors as Alexander Calder and Henry  Carandente installed it so well it looked as if it belonged.'
                                Moore, was invited to go to Italy. (No doubt to save   In reflecting on his Italian experience, David said:
                                transportation costs-it is cheaper to move a man than a  `Perhaps it was the climate-locale-at least it seems to me
                                monument.) The sculptors were to make a monumental  that my Italian work took on a different feeling than my
                                steel sculpture or two to be shown at the Festival. 'Having  U.S.A. work ever had-yet it was natural and without
                                neither job nor love to hold me here-went to Genoa...  intention... Certain things are not possible here-there is
                                Given everything I asked for-residence 'Colombia-  no affinity of the government or industry for my work
                                Excelsior' - interpreter - chauffeur - six workmen-chose  (other artists as well) .'
                                abandoned factories at Voltri to work', wrote Smith.   From his mountain vastness at Bolton Landing, Smith
                                 At first Smith was overcome by his reception, by enough  made periodic forays to New York City, often staying
                                help for the first time, by being allowed to use any of the  with my wife and me (`I miss a household') ; often at the
                                vast numbers of steel parts left in the abandoned factories  Plaza Hotel CI like the comforts of the Plaza, I have none
                                by `Italsider', the Italian National Steel Trust, which  at home : often dinner burns while I read or work or
                                supplied his help.                                 drink or dream'). While here, he invariably spent at
                                 He had the fire in the forge started. In four weeks he  least one night at a jazz joint, The Five Spot, and visited
                                made twenty-six monumental sculptures from six to  the museums, bookshops, record shops, and Dunhill's
                                twenty feet high. Smith said later: 'Worked twelve hours  for his cigars.
                                a day seven days a week-not knowing Italian, I had not   At other times, when loneliness got him, he crossed the
                                known I had been asked to make one to two pieces -  state line from Bolton Landing over to Vermont to visit
                                `Italsider' let me roam all the factories-pick out what-  the painter, Kenneth Noland,  who lives near Benning-
                                ever I wanted-let me work without interruption-I  ton, where Smith has taught, and where Anthony Caro, a
                                still do not understand how this confidence and genero-  superb young English sculptor, taught more recently.
                                sity generated. I was never bothered with officials,  Smith and Noland drank whisky and played chess. Noland
                                questions, teas, social affairs, or checkups-somehow  adored him.
        *And near whose driveway
        Smith was killed in his truck.   word was extended that I had privileges-I have never   On the way home, Smith stopped at junkyards looking
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