los-angeles

David Smith

Margo Leavin Gallery

David Smith’s works on paper have incredible presence, dignity, and weight. They seem almost musical in the tense balance they strike between force and restraint, elegance and primitivism, the human and the monumental. The 50 works in this show, executed in oil, tempera, and “egg ink” (ink mixed with egg) date from 1952 to 1960; all but one are untitled. Calligraphic, hieroglyphic, ideographic, and highly gestural, they are as unparaphrasable as the best poetry. Some pieces bring to mind odd-headed stick figures; notation or diagrams for some contemporary tribal dance; curled metal; claws or branches; feathers, bones, and upright mummies; towers of Babel; or some newly composed written language of fire or iron.

The works are almost archetypal in their range of expressiveness. Although extremely controlled, they give the impression of great pent-up energy. They look both organic and machinelike;

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