PRINT April 1969

The Essential David Smith, Part II

IF DAVID SMITH’S CAREER VIBRATES with the emotional tone of a battle campaign, this was at least partly justified. Smith was looking for formal alternatives to the whole of 20th-century sculpture, and his ambition would allow him to stop at nothing less than a complete restructuring of the relationship between the solitary sculpture and its viewers. The character this career takes on is one of a quest—a quest which committed itself, moreover, to a kind of total originality. Paradoxically, the very recognition of Smith’s self-imposed demands raises certain obstacles for an historical understanding of Smith’s art. For it implies that one cannot necessarily see Smith’s work in terms of a range of beliefs which he shared with his contemporaries; it implies that his historical situation tells one not so much about his membership within a community of ideas but about his revolt from it. In short,

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