02/09/2006 05:07 PM
artnet Magazine - Weekend Update
Page 1 of 5
The Guggenheim Museum, February 2006
Fogg Art Museum
"David Smith: A Centennial" at the
by Walter Robinson
The Guggenheim Museum always goes a little crazy with its
architecture. At present the place looks like a replica of Madison Square
Garden, transformed by scaffolds and netting into a truncated cylinder
with a screw-lid top. The "exterior renovation in progress," as the sign
says, involves stripping Frank Lloyd Wright ’s famed spiral down to the
bare concrete. Fix those cracks!
Inside, for "David Smith: A Centennial," Feb. 3-May 14, 2006,
Guggenheim adjunct curator Carmen Gimenez has nicely arranged over
120 sculptures by David Smith (1906-65) up and down the spiral ramp
and in the adjoining tower galleries, ranging from Saw Head (1933) to
Cubi XXVII (1965). Pioneering though it is, Smith’s work gave up its
mysteries long ago, making this show a study in classic modernism.
Many of the sculptures are elegantly proportioned abstractions from
nature, like the Fogg Art Museum’s Fish (1950-51), a Cézannesque
"landscape" done in orange-painted steel. For most of his career, Smith
favored pictorial sculpture, making freestanding pictures-in-space that
resemble all manner of things, whether hieroglyphics in a cartouche (The
Letter, 1950), Atom Age illustrations (Star Cage, 1950) or even a moon
peeking through the clouds (Voltri XV, 1962).
Walking down the Guggenheim ramp, it becomes clear that Smith’s old-
fashioned formal perfection is based on nature, with its elegant
syncopation and grace. More interesting now are the handful of works
that represent not the ideal of the human figure but its collapse into age,
sloth and disability -- like in the "Tanktotems" from the early 1950s, with
their pot bellies, curved spines and spindly legs.
Also interesting is the "Voltri" series of sculptures, made in a ma