Left: David Smith, Tanktotem IX, 1960, painted steel, 90 x 33 x 24 1/8“. Right: David Smith, Agricola XIII, 1953, steel and stainless steel, 35 1/4 x 42 1/2 x 12”.

David Smith

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York

FOR YEARS—decades, really—when encountering a sculpture by David Smith in a museum or an art gallery, I’ve looked at it long and hard, from up close and far away. I’ve walked all around it and peered at it from every point of view; and then, if it was a piece I found compelling (and no one was watching), I made a loose fist with my right hand and lightly rapped the sculpture in order to hear—I almost wrote “see”—how it sounded. Only then do I ever feel that I know a work by Smith, whatever else knowing it might be taken to mean. So imagine my satisfaction when I read Michael Brenson’s essay “The Fields” in a catalogue accompanying the artist’s recent retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in which Smith’s daughter Candida is quoted recalling her experience visiting the scores of sculptures Smith had placed in the fields adjacent to his house and studio at Bolton Landing in

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