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Cubi xxviii
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Cubi xxviii
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Cubi xxviii

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"I polished [the sculptures] in such a way that on a dull day, they take on the dull blue, or the color of the sky in the afternoon sun, the glow, golden like the rays, the colors of nature …. They are colored by the sky and surroundings, the green or blue of water.’’ \nDavid Smith in an interview with Thomas B. Hess, June 1964\nDavid Smith embodied an independence of spirit that characterized many of the American artists who emerged at the midpoint of the 20th Century. Smith combined a refusal to choose one convention or form above another with a forceful determination to achieve a singular vision and artistic identity. The sculptor created one of the most consistently confident and individualistic bodies of work from the mid-century, establishing a new kind of sculptural invention that used innovative techniques and material to express a fusion of abstraction and figuration. Combining modern technologies and materials derived from machinery and industry, Smith conveyed volume through an innate genius for organizing negative and positive space. Smith also possessed a love for landscape and Surrealist lyricism that brought a vibrantly poetic linear element to the overt Cubist solidity of his art.\nThe Cubi series is the culmination of Smith’s sculptural alchemy, in which welded metal becomes a composition of elegant yet weighty and volumetric presence, created around open spaces rather than carved from solid form like traditional stone or wood sculpture. Smith’s genius for balancing void and solid, form and content, crude material and poetic spirit is the hallmark of his Cubi masterpieces. Created from 1961 until his untimely death in 1965, Smith’s Cubi sculptures are a cohesive group – of which Cubi XXVIII was the last – whose sleek geometry of boxes and columns allowed Smith to experiment with real rather than implied volume, exploring all its permutations. This spectacular group of sculptures is not only the culmination of Smith’s illustrious career; they are acknowledged masterpieces of American art that constitute one of the most radical developments in modern sculpture. The importance of the Cubis is confirmed by the fact that twenty-one of the Cubis have entered museum collections, many within just a few years of the artist’s death.\nThe linear genius of Smith’s earlier work of the 1940s and 1950s was a form of drawing in space, while literal volume was largely abandoned. With the work of the 1960s, including the Cubis, Zigs, Wagons and Circles, Smith celebrated form and mass in three-dimensional space, as he accepted the challenge of creating monumental sculptures that could inhabit the rolling vista of the hills surrounding his studio in Bolton Landing. The 1960s were a time of creative ingenuity and interplay among simultaneous series, unparalleled in Smith’s oeuvre, and the flow of ideas freely informed one series with the innovations of the other.  As the artist’s daughter, Candida Smith described his process, "Again and again he referred to his `work stream’; each work of art being as a vessel filled from the stream while never wholly separate. I understand his term to mean the flow of his identity made physically manifest – the process by which images and ideas from decades or days before inform a work in progress or yet to be made."  (Candida N. Smith, The Fields of David Smith, New York, 1999, p. 17)  This particularly fecund period was informed by the artist’s visit to Spoleto, Italy to participate in the Festival of Two Worlds in 1962. Working in five abandoned factories in Voltri, Smith made a prodigious amount of sculpture during his short stay of thirty days, incorporating found objects and scraps of metal from his surroundings into works that were displayed throughout the city. As Candida Smith recalls, "My father returned home that summer invigorated and jubilant. …It was after his return from Italy that the fields began to burgeon at an amazing rate. It was as if the creative explosion and the resulting enormous installation in Spoleto ignited a fire that did not burn out. The Voltri-Boltons were made along with the painted circle pieces, Primo Pianos, Zigs and Cubis.’’ (Ibid., p. 30-32)\nAs a mature work in the series, Cubi XXVIII embodies the many influences of these various series of the early 1960s. The more figurative element of the earlier Sentinels is evident in the rectangular "torso’’ atop one of the columnar sides of the composition of Cubi XXVIII. The painted brushwork on the surface of the Circles is mirrored in the polished arcs and swirls that play across the stainless steel, bringing a bursting vitality to elements such as the central diamond shape of Cubi XXVIII. But it is perhaps the series of Zigs that are most closely related to the mature compositions of the Cubi series such as Cubi XXVIII. The Zigs are unequivocally three-dimensional and towering structures, consisting of strongly differentiated interplays of convex and concave planes. Smith’s similar concentration on the volumetric potentialities of the Cubis is demonstrated by the photograph taken by Dan Budnik of cardboard models Smith used to explore geometric variations and compositions. In the Zigs, the surfaces are painted, often in combinations of strongly vibrant colors such as red, yellow or blue, that accentuate a composition’s disparate parts, and at other times with a more unifying tone of brown or black as in Zig III. The overall rough, brushy strokes and the monochrome palette of Zig III is deliberately at odds with the complicated, angular structure of the sculpture, a marked difference to the Cubis in which shape and surface treatment are perfectly congruent.\nIn creating outdoor sculptures, Smith had concerns about the durability of his materials and surface treatments, and through much experimentation with various techniques and materials, stainless steel became Smith’s preferred medium. Stainless steel is more resistant to the elements than standard steel or iron, but for many years, Smith could not afford large quantities of this more expensive material. However, increased critical acclaim and commercial success that began with a 1957 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, freed Smith to liberally utilize stainless steel, beginning with the Sentinel series (1957-1961) and ending with the Cubis (1961 to 1965).  The reflective qualities of the polished surface created an optical synthesis of the plastic form with the pictorial composition. "Smith…was enthralled by the idea of surfaces that would change as the light of day changed, and so, in a sense, they are the final development of his lifelong preoccupation with the possibilities of color in sculpture. But the burnished, light-diffusing surface of Smith’s stainless steel sculptures serve both to focus attention on those surfaces and to make them seem insubstantial. We have seen the handwriting of the burnishing before – in…the Zigs for example – but here the skin of paint, which often seemed at odds with the structure of the work, has been replaced by an optical dazzle that appears to be an inherent property of the material itself’’ (Karen Wilkin, David Smith, New York, 1984, pp. 85-86)  In Cubi XXVIII and its related works, Smith fully exploited the sheer beauty of his material. These brilliantly polished surfaces reflect light in expressionistic swirls which seem to be both within the steel as well as on it, creating a sculpture of monumental scale which appears to be filled with air and light.\nAs each work of the 1960s was completed, Smith would carefully choose its location on the north or south field on the rolling property that ran from his house to his studio. Smith’s fields were a nascent sculpture 'farm’, a formidable display of artistic creativity proclaiming itself amidst a landscape of age-worn mountains, open sky and tree-filled vistas. As his friend and fellow artist, Robert Motherwell commented, "When I saw that David places his work against the mountains and sky, the impulse was plain, an ineffable desire to see his humanness, related to exterior reality, to nature at least if not man, for the marvel of the felt scale that exists between a true work and the immovable world, the relation that makes both human.’’ (Robert Motherwell, Art in America, January-February 1966, p. 37)  Cubi XXVIII was centrally placed in the south field, at a right angle that allowed the viewer to look through its portal shape from both the deck of the house and the deck of the studio, almost as a window from one view to the other.\nCubi XXVIII was one of three sculptures in this series which Smith loosely referred to as "gates’’ or "arches’’, with Cubi XXIV and Cubi XXVII being the other two. Zig III is cited as a precedent for these three works with its post and lintel framework and somewhat open center. Horizontals top strong verticals in the three "gate’’ Cubis and this structure emphasizes the architectonic essence of Smith’s work and increases the monumentality of their presence. Cylinders and the canted central square invigorate the post and lintel framework of Cubi XXVIII, calling to mind Candida Smith’s comment on the "arches’’ and "gates’’.  While any literal referencing to Smith’s subject matter can be problematic or too simplistic, there is a poetic resonance to this composition as a final legacy for David Smith’s oeuvre. As Candida Smith wrote, "The Cubi 'gates’ are open portals designating a picture plane of imbued space waiting for us to enter and be transformed’’ (Ibid., p. 25)\n\nCUBI SERIES BY DAVID SMITH\nCubi I\nDetroit Institute of Art\nAcquired in 1966 from the estate of the artist\nCubi II\nCollection of Candida and Rebecca Smith\nCubi III\nMrs. Beatrice Gersh, Beverly Hills\nPartial and promised donation to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles\nCubi IV\nMilwaukee Art Museum\nAcquired in 1977, gift of Mrs. Harry Lynne Bradley\nCubi V\nPrivate Collection\n\nCubi VI\nIsrael Museum, Jerusalem\nGift of Mr. and Mrs. Meshulam Riklis (Judith Stevn-Riklis) to American Friends of the Israel Museum\nCubi VII\nArt Institute of Chicago\nAcquired in 1964 from the estate of the artist\nCubi VIII\nThe Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas\nAcquired in 1969 from the estate of the artist\nCubi IX\nWalker Art Center, Minneapolis\nAcquired in 1968 from the estate of the artist\nCubi X\nMuseum of Modern Art, New York\nAcquired in 1968 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XI\nPrivate Collection\nCubi XII\nHirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.\nAcquired in 1968 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XIII\nPrinceton University, New Jersey\nAcquired in 1969 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XIV\nSt. Louis Art Museum, Missouri\nAcquired in 1979 from Philip M. Stern, Washington, D. C.\nCubi XV\nSan Diego Museum, California\nAcquired in 1968 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XVI\nAlbright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo\nAcquired in 1968 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XVII\nMuseum of Fine Art, Dallas\nAcquired in 1965 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XVIII\nMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston\nAcquired in 1968 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XIX\nThe Tate Gallery, London\nAcquired in 1966 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XX\nWight Art Gallery of the University of California, Los Angeles\nAcquired in 1967, gift of Mrs. Donald Bright Capen\nCubi XXI\nLipman Family Foundation\nCubi XXII\nYale University Art Gallery, New Haven\nAcquired in 1968 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XXIII\nLos Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles\nAcquired in 1967 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XXIV\nMuseum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania\nAcquired in 1967 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XXV\nJane Lang Davis, Medina, Washington\nCubi XXVI\nNational Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.\nAcquired in 1978, gift of Mr. Philip M. Stern, Washington, D. C.\nCubi XXVII\nSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York\nAcquired in 1967 from the estate of the artist\nCubi XXVIII\nthe present work\nSigned, titled, dated 5-5-1965 and inscribed gate 3
US
NY, US
US

medium

Stainless steel

creator

David Smith

dimensions

108 x 110 x 45 in. 274.3 x 279.4 x 114.3 cm.

exhibition

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, David Smith: a Memorial Exhibition, November 1965 - January 1966, cat. no. 12, p. 21, illustrated Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; Washington, D.C., Washington Gallery of Modern Art, David Smith: a Retrospective Exhibition, September 1966 - February 1967, cat. no. 544, pl. no. 21, p. 35, illustrated Portland Art Museum, Recent Acquisitions by the Norton Simon, Inc. Museum of Art, November 1968 - May 1969 Pasadena, Museum of Modern Art, Modern Sculpture from the Norton Simon, Inc. Museum of Art and the Norton Simon Foundation, August 1972 - July 1973 and September - November 1973 Princeton, Art Museum, Princeton University, extended loan, November 1973 - May 1974 Denver Art Museum, extended loan, May - December 1974 Pasadena, Norton Simon Museum of Art, March 1975 - July 1982 Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, David Smith: Seven Major Themes, November 1982 - April 1983, cat. no. 17 (Cubi), pl. no. 22, p. 218, illustrated Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum, Modern Art in the West: Twentieth Century Painting and Modern Sculpture, October - December 1983 Fort Worth, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, extended loan, May 1984 - May 2005

literature

Nancy Marmer, "A Memorial Exhibition: David Smith", Artforum, vol. 4, no. 5, January 1966, p. 42, illustrated Cleve Gray, ed., David Smith by David Smith: Sculpture and Writings, New York, 1968, p. 171, illustrated George Heard Hamilton, 19th and 20th Century Art, New York, 1970, pl. no. 59, p. 379, illustrated in color Sam Hunter and John Jacobus, American Art of the 20th Century, New York, 1973, fig. 530, p. 286, illustrated Garnett McCoy, ed., Documentary Monographs in Modern Art: David Smith, New York, 1973, pl. no. VIII, p. 56, illustrated in color James Mills, "David Smith's Cubi XXVIII at Denver Art Museum" Denver Post, August 4, 1974, illustrated Rosalind E. Krauss, The Sculpture of David Smith: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York and London, 1977, no. 676, illustrated Edward Lucie-Smith, Sam Hunter and Adolf Max Vogt, Kunst der Gegenwart, Frankfurt, 1978, pl. no. 175, pp. 181-182, illustrated M.W. Brown, Sam Hunter, John Jacobus, Nancy Rosenblum and D.M. Sokol, American Art, New York, 1979, fig. 559, p. 509, illustrated Stanley E. Marcus, David Smith: The Sculptor and His Work, Ithaca, 1983, fig. 90, p. 185, illustrated Exh. Cat., New York, Matthew Marks Gallery, David Smith: Photographs 1931-1965, 1998, pl. no. 110, p. 107, illustrated

provenance

Estate of the artist Marlborough - Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York Norton Simon, Inc. Museum of Art, Fullerton and Pasadena (acquired from the above on July 24, 1968) Acquired from the above by the present owner through Marlborough Gallery, New York on July 15, 1982

signedDate

Signed, titled, dated 5-5-1965 and inscribed gate 3

consignmentDesignation

Property of a Texas Foundation

creator_nationality_dates

1906-1965


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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