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Abstract Expressionist Sculpture

Explore how sculptors took on the challenges of Abstract Expressionism


Australia

David Smith
(American, 1906–1965)

1951. Painted steel on cinder block base, 6' 7 1/2" x 8' 11 7/8" x 16 1/8" (202 x 274 x 41 cm), on cinder block base 17 1/2 x 16 3/4 x 15 1/4" (44.5 x 42.5 x 38.7 cm)

In Australia, David Smith combines metal scraps and agricultural tool parts to create an open, energetic composition of lines. Smith made primarily sculpture, but he was trained as a painter and worked in the same circles as many Abstract Expressionist painters. Like a two-dimensional painting, this work is best viewed from one side. Additionally, Smith relies on line to create what he called a “drawing in space.” He once said, “I do not recognize the limits where painting ends and sculpture begins.”1 Because of its title, Australia is often read as a kangaroo springing into action.

David Smith: Painter, Sculptor, Draftsman, ed. Edward F. Fry (Washington, DC: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 1982), 130.

A process of joining two pieces of metal together by heating the surfaces to the point of melting and then pressing them together.

 The arrangement of the elements within a work of art photograph. The composition is the interplay between the subject, foreground, background, and other elements in the photograph.

Did You Know?
Smith was the first well-known American artist to experiment with welding, an industrial technique that joins metal together. He first learned how to weld during summer breaks in college, when he worked at a car factory. However, it wasn’t until he saw the welded sculptures of Pablo Picasso and Julio González in the early 1930s that he was inspired to apply the process to his art.