David Smith tended to work in series--this work is from the Albany Series, named after the town where the artist purchased his materials. Executed between 1959-1962, the series consists of fourteen relatively small scale sculptures--35 inches high or less--and are primarily black in coloration. Albany IX (Little Albany) is indeed the most diminutive of them, hence the title. Circles tend to be read in motion and the placement of the three rounds lend the sculpture a strong sense of counterclockwise movement.
Like all of Smith's work, one can read some elements of figuration into it--a standing figure with arm outstretched perhaps, or more likely, a landscape with the top round signifying a fiery sun and a green strip of land below. Its playful snowman-shape calls to mind Alexander Calder and Paul Klee, but its Russian Constructivist-influenced geometry keep it firmly grounded in plastic concerns.
Throughout his working life, the circle would be one of Smith's most enduring forms. 'Circles have long been a preoccupation, more primary than squares. Wheels are circles with mobility from the first wheel of man, to wheels on Indian stone temples, to a target on a pyramid I painted in '34 to all the suns and poetic imagery of movement to the practical fact that my sculpture is getting too big to move without built-in rolling. Horse chariots are not in my picture' (D. Smith as quoted in R. Krauss, The Sculpture of David Smith: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1977, p. 99).
Albany IX (Little Albany) reads like a two dimensional work--it has a rich black surface, over which are painted evocative passages of red, green and white. Smith made paintings and works on paper throughout his career and their concerns were often evident in his sculpture. Even in works devoid of color, such as the late Cubi, Smith scratched and blasted the stainless steel to create a more dynamic surface. For Smith, sculpture can be painting and painting can be sculpture and no authority can overrule the artist in his declaration' (D. Smith, as quoted in David Smith: Related Clues, New York, 2004, p. 132).