Page 15 - Studio International - August 1966
P. 15

David Smith : the art of wholeness

                                  by Gene Baro

                                  Probably the most remarkable thing about David Smith  degree: both his revolt and his dedication were a bit
                                 is that he scaled his life to the demands of his art rather  over life-size—and so, for that matter, was his sculpture.
                                  than the other way round. I don't suppose this was a  The work speaks of will, but not any less than the crea-
                                 matter of cold decision alone, though there were many  tion of the circumstances that made it possible.
                                  points in Smith's long career when he chose calculatedly   I am not suggesting that Smith was a Paragon, still
                                 against happiness, well-being, and success, in the ordinary  less a Puritan. His formidable self-discipline came out of
                                  meaning of those terms. In fact, his disposition to give  hard self-knowledge. He was profoundly a man of the
                                 way to his art must have grown upon him. It came of his  senses, as well as of the intellect. He wanted the world,
                                  realization that everything is potentially of use to the  every experience of it, with the insistent appetite of a big
                                 artist, that the artist must be open to influence, available  man in the heyday of his blood. But also his necessity
                                  to the world, but also peculiarly attentive to the prompt-  was to understand and project what he felt about the
                                 ings of his own nature.                            world and himself in it. He saw his emotion transfigured
                                   Does this seem self-evident, applicable to artists in  as sculpture; reality, if it could be grasped at all, could
                                  general? If so, it is seldom honoured. Art, for most of its  be stated as relationships of mass, space, plane, and
                                  practitioners, represents a compromise of interests and  colour. In sculpture's sheer physicality and arbitrary
                                  not the sacrificial pursuit of anything as dubious as  form the inner life and the outer would meet.
                                  creative freedom. Artists commonly do what they can   The artist's problem is always to give shape to his
                                  do, what comes to be expected of them, and haven't the  feelings in a way that elaborates and refreshes the con-
                                  patience or nerve or need to woo the inexpressible. They  vention. He has at his disposal the riches of art history
                                  are bound by what they accept as men.             and of the natural world. The contemporary scene defines
                                   To put it another way, the size of the studio—or of the  permissible idioms and perhaps offers insidious stimu-
                                  family—affects the conception. It is a question of how  lants, for present art always seems to be taking a direction.
                                  much the artist gets from the man's store of energies,  What the individual artist will find most difficult to know
                                  how his comforts and appetites relate to the working  is his relationship to his inner resources of creativity. It
                                  day. Even a sense of vocation more often limits than  is easier to find an acceptable cultural posture than to
                                  enlarges the effort. The convention dominates: the artist  discover the imagery of unconscious culture in oneself.
                                  is prepared to say what art is, not to ask what it is. Society   David Smith knew that he must be free to take ad-
                                  at large and the pressures of the market-place fit the artist  vantage of every creative resource, especially of the
                                  to exacting, if contradictory, roles.             truths of his own psychology. Doesn't the artist remake
                                   Smith's response as artist was perhaps only different in   the world in his own image ? Smith worked as much by
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