David Smith morning Lot 118
David Smith PWC Morn Lot 118
David Smith (1906-1965)
2 More
David Smith (1906-1965)

Bronze Planes 4/23/64

David Smith (1906-1965)
Bronze Planes 4/23/64
incised with the artist's signature, inscribed and dated 'Becca David Smith April 23 1964' (on the base); incised again with the artist's signature and dated again 'David Smith April 23 1964' (on the underside)
bronze with silver patina
19 3/8 x 5 ½ x 7 in. (49.2 x 14 x 17.8 cm.)
Executed in 1964.
The artist
Estate of the artist
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York
Charles R. Blyth, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1972
Anon. sale; Christie, Manson & Woods International, New York, 18 May 1979, lot 103
Private collection
M. Knoedler & Co., New York
Nancy S. Graves, New York, 1983
Nancy Graves Foundation, New York, 1995, by descent from the above
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1999
David Smith 1906-1965. A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum, 1966, p. 82, no. 528.
R. Krauss, The Sculpture of David Smith: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York and London, 1977, p. 114, no. 632 (illustrated).
David Smith: A Centennial, Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2006, p. 85.
New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, David Smith, October-November 1964, no. 24 (illustrated as April 23, 1964).
Rome, Marlborough Galleria d'Arte, Scultura Internazionale, April-May 1968, p. 47, no. 47 (illustrated on the cover).
New York, Knoedler & Company, Summer Group Show, July-August 1998, no. 11.
New York, Paul Kasmin Gallery, The New York School, 1969: Henry Geldzahler at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, January-March 2015.

Lot Essay

The Estate of David Smith will include this work in the forthcoming fully revised and updated catalogue raisonné, David Smith (1906-1965): A Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture, to be published by Yale University Press.

David Smith’s Bronze Planes 4/23/64 attests not only to the artist’s unique abstract vocabulary but also to his deep aesthetic connections to the history of sculpture, both classic and contemporary. By composing his sculpture out of elegantly shaped and carefully arranged bronze planes, with this totemic sculpture Smith evokes Cubism and the practice of collage in particular. Clement Greenberg, in his now seminal essay in Artnews in 1958, held up collage to be one of the most important artistic advances in the art historical canon, “Collage was a major turning point in the evolution of Cubism, and therefore a major turning point in the whole evolution of modernist art in this century” (C. Greenberg. ‘The Pasted-paper Revolution’, ARTnews, 57 (1958), pp. 46–9, 60–61; repr. as ‘Collage’ in Art and Culture (Boston, 1961), pp. 70–83). Here, Smith collages his solid bronze planes in such a sophisticated way that its aesthetic and compositional resonance extends far beyond its intimate scale.

Bronze Planes 4/23/64 belongs to a group of fve sculptures which Smith executed in 1964 at the height of his career. Anchored by a tall, thin central core, the artist then attaches a series of geometric elements—one square, one oval, and two limb-like armatures. This bold arrangement results in a work that proudly announces its presence in confdent fashion. Although comprised of a series of overlapping planes, this work is far from one-dimensional and Smith intuitively creates a sense of depth by the way the geometric elements have been bolted together. By layering elements one on top of another he achieves a seductive void within the central core, giving it a sense of depth visible from whichever aspect one views the work.

Unlike traditional sculpture, which was produced by removing stone or marble to achieve the required form, Smith’s practice is an additive one, assembling and arranging existing forms to produce his new aesthetic. By skillfully placing his bronze planes, Smith creates a work of both strength and elegance; a sculpture characterized by its solidity, yet one which also generates space within the body of the work. He highlights the contrast between straight and curved line, as well as that between positive and negative space. As in many of his works from the 1960s, Smith is exploring the fattening of space and the painterliness of surface. Here, Smith continues to explore more fully the ideas of absence and contrast in highlighting the solidity of the metal against the voids created by the overlapping planes. Dedicated to his daughter Rebecca, and executed just a year before his early death in 1965, this work becomes a bold example of the artist’s handling of material and space and an exemplary instance of the artist’s work at this point in his career. Unlike much of his earlier work, which was often placed on a podium or pedestal, Smith’s sculptures from the 1960s begin to be more holistic—the whole form becoming part of the composition. This sense of ‘all-over composition” owes much to the paintings of his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries, as Carmen Giménez, curator of the artist’s centennial retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York in 2006, explains: “Smith’s work was originally infuenced, of course, by that of Picasso and Gonzalez and still shows
its Cubist sources, although much is diferent… The comparative integration of the top and the bottom into a whole…and especially related to the best painting of Newman, Rothko and Noland. The sculptures have a wholeness that these paintings have and simple and undescriptive parts, great scale and a format that is not imagistic” (C. Giménez, David Smith. A Centennial, exh.cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2006. p. 369).

Smith also had a deep and thorough understanding of the historical traditions of sculpture. The present work is executed in bronze—an ancient medium full of historical resonances—with a silvered patina. Virtually overlooked in his earlier work, his interest in the surface appearance of his work had become more pronounced over time. As E. A. Carmean noted, “From this experience of natural light falling on his work’s differing surfaces—the difused “sparkle” of his “Cubi (taken from the word Cubism),” refective “boxes” for example – Smith began to experiment with both applied patinas as well as naturally “cured” surfaces on both bronzes and on his industrial material. Here, the patina is more “emphatic” because of the Bronze Planes’ smaller scale, and the resulting surfaces are ones of more intimate infections of tone and color, giving a richness parallel to that long esteemed in certain Classical and Oriental sculptures” (E. A. Carmean, David Smith: Bronze Planes, Privately Printed, 2013).

Bronze Planes 4/23/64 was a deeply personal work for the artist as on its base it bears the dedication “Becca,” a reference to Rebecca Smith, the artist’s eldest daughter. Smith dedicated numerous works to his daughters, Candida and Rebecca, such as the monumental sculpture Becca, 1965, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The work was acquired by the accomplished sculptor, painter, and print maker Nancy Graves, who had long admired and was inspired by work of David Smith, and during her lifetime acquired work by him for her own personal collection. This work was produced during the most fertile period of the artist’s career and shows the extent to which Smith’s sculpture was moving into and exciting new directions. More intimate in scale than the monumental Cubi series which he was also working on at this time, Smith’s Bronze Planes displays a more refned and consummate form and his sculpture reached a more accomplished level. As one of the fnal works produced by the artist, Bronze Planes 4/23/64 is part of Smith’s “visionary projection of what the next sculptures are to be. One of the projections is to push beauty to the very edge of rawness” (D. Smith, quoted in David Smith by David Smith, ed. Cleve Grey, New York, 1968, p. 77).

More from Post-War & Contemporary Art Morning Sale

View All
View All