Page 20 - Studio International - August 1966
P. 20

'Silhouetted against an
        enormous sky'
        Photo : Ed Cornachio

                                 the sculptor, but they are unique and have never existed   It is certainly one of the strengths of Smith's sculpture
                                 before this century.                             that it involves reminiscence and association without in-
                                 In short, even the qualities of iron and steel are only  sisting upon them. By and large, the work is free of
                                significant as the artist chooses to dwell upon them in his  detailed references. Such as there are will be subordinated
                                conceptions; they assist the artist's visualization; they  in a visual and spatial system that is the point of the
                                stimulate, but they do not determine. Smith always left  work. The total organization makes the impact; the
                                room for the mystery of creation. Technique and material  reminiscent quality adds perhaps ambiguity, an emo-
                                and their associations set his mind in a general direction;  tional resonance, especially to the earlier pieces.
                                what happened thereafter might be as romantic as in-  Smith's habit of working in series may be regarded as a
                                spiration or as hard-headed as seizing an opportunity.  means of controlling associations. These collections of
                                It was, at all events, an inner expression, not wholly  related sculptures exhaust their themes. Smith might
                                calculable, but not, for that matter, permissive. For  work on several series simultaneously, attacking formal
                                Smith, creation was a self-correcting process.    problems quite distinctly within a containing expressive
                                 A few weeks before his death in a motor accident last  idiom. The series  Zig and Cubi  developed in this way,
                                year, Smith told a Bennington College audience about  the first involved with colour painted on, the second, in
                                his methods of work:                              stainless steel, with colour taken on as reflection—in fact,
                                 I like to buy things first and make them come into use. I have   with the metamorphic quality of light. One series might
                                 piles of iron and stacks of stainless steel and stacks of bronze  be thought to derive from another. Smith's Gates, among
                                 and paper; and I like to buy it, stack it, and make it work on  his last works, carry forward the massive simplifications
                                 me. I hate to have an idea and be deprived of immediately  of Cubi;  these last pieces have a classical authority and
                                 making it or following it through, waiting for materials to  dignity and seem remote from the wilfull exuberance
                                 come.                                            and gestural verve of earlier work, whose elements often
                                 Speaking of a series of sculptures, he said:     seem heaved into the air.
                                 None of these are pre-conceived. None of them are drawn. I   Hilton Kramer has pointed out that Smith submitted
                                 take iron and an acetylene torch which runs on a track and is  `the rhetoric of the School of Paris to the vernacular of
                                 motor driven and put a tip into the right cutting thickness,  the American machine shop.' It is certainly true that
                                 and I cut shapes out, and then I throw them on the floor and  Smith made a successful personal synthesis out of the
                                 pile up a big blob of shapes. And then I stumble over them  great innovations of twentieth century art. His self-
                                 and sooner or later relationships take place, and then if they   'searching kept him-from brilliant pastiche or eclecticism.  	• •
                                 are not complete, I complete them.                He had a genius for wholeness, for directness, even in the
                                 His use of colour became more intuitive. He said :   presentation of seeming irreconcilables. His is perhaps a
                                                                                   peculiarly American genius; he was honest, but he was
        Opposite right           ... Sometimes I look at things for a year before I know what
        A group of painted sculptures   the colour is. I like to think that I can find a correlation   willing to take a chance. He put things together, and he
        standing in one of Smith's                                                made them work together. He let things happen, but not
        fields                   between that shape and its proper colour and, of course, some-
        Photo: Ed Cornachio      where way back is an association in mind from an object.   quite. 	                             q
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