David Smith at the Guggenheim

David Smith was one of the leading abstract expressionist sculptors of America and is on display at the Guggenheim. I really liked his work, even though I have spent precious little time looking at sculptures and really have no specific tools to analyse or describe what I saw, but I will try anyways. To start with, the Guggenheim is an astonishing museum. Frank Lloyd Wright really knocked the ball out of the park with this one. It’s a very strange feeling to be walking around looking at art only to suddenly realise that you are inside a piece of art yourself, making up the kaleidoscope of colours inside the totally stark white of the museum. The curving ramps interspersed with straightline columns make for some very interesting perspectives. At times one suddenly finds oneself on a balcony looking down at the crowds milling in some gallery or the other and it really makes the head spin. Wonderful. So there I was trying to take in and make sense of this whole David Smith thing when I see something that lightning-rodded the whole experience and turned it into electricity -

Interior (1956)

After that I was quite happy to walk along the curving staircase getting blown away by DS. Works of his that made an impression on me were ‘The Letter’, 'The Music of the Landscape’ and the little one with colours in it. The exhibition was so wonderfully curated that not only did they present his works but also enough background info for one to get a sense of his mind and thought process. For example, they had a full room of his sketches. DS said that sculpting was too slow a process and in order that his ideas have a chance to flow freely, he would sketch incessantly. He had two studios, one for sketching during the day and another for sculpting into the night. Some of his 'sketches’ though, are big huge drawings in his trademark sculpting style, hardly possible to call them sketches. They provided a huge insight into the mind of the man.
Study for Tanktotems
In another room, they had his actual sketchbooks on display, with his notes and jottings and everything. DS also made a series of 'Medals of Dishonour’ to express his anguish at the Spanish Civil War. With titles like 'Bombing of Civilian Populations’ or 'The Clergy Cooperates’ or 'Death by Gas’, these are fiendish works in bronze depicting the ghastly scenes of children impaled on bombs, hospital ships singing, angels of death in gas masks. Hard core. In between this David Smith orgy, lie the Guggenheim’s permanent collections, a wonderful way to cleanse the palate between courses at the David Smith buffet. I especially liked Picasso’s 'Woman Ironing’, Van Gogh’s 'Viaduc’ (made the other impressionists on display look like rank amateurs) and a huge one by Jackson Pollock - Seas of Grey I think it was called.