Art With No Boundaries

David Smith, excerpts from “Statements, Writings” (1947-52), in Cleve Gray, ed. David Smith by David Smith (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1968), 123, 132, 133.

American abstract expressionist sculptor and painter David Smith excerpt from “Statements, Writings” from 1959 outlines how he believes that art has no boundaries and speaks to everyone individually. He believes that Masterpieces are made to this day and are a reflection of the time the artist lived in. However, Smith writes, “art is a paradox that has no laws to bind it. Laws set can always be violated.” (37) To Smith, his work is the most important of them all and “that art before his time has no immediate contribution to his aesthetics since that art is history explaining past behaviors, but not necessarily offering solutions to his problems.” (37) To him, art is apart of life and it is opinionated as well as ever changing from past to present. (37) Smith tells us that in the past art had clearly defined rules as well as being dictated by something or someone. It is only within the past century that artists have been able to think freely without having to follow these rules or having to worry about being exploited by others (37-38). Smith states, “the freedom of man’s mind to celebrate his own feeling by a work of art parallels his social revolt for bondage.” (38) He also believes art, freedom, and equality haven’t been truly born yet. This belief affects his style and medium. He sculpts because he has the freedom to do so, as he pleases; it is his reason to live. He sculpts for people who are open-minded, like him, so that they are free to think what they want about his pieces, and not held down by the rules of the past. (38)

Above, Smith is talking about how art should be free and open for interpretation by the people looking at it. This can easily be applied to one of his most popular sculptures in the early 1950’s, Hudson River Landscape. His sculpture of the Hudson River Landscape (1951), corresponds to a number of works that he produced and relates to a period of pastoral themes. This piece is an expressive piece with flowing gestural movements that show the artists emotions and personality, similar to painting but in the sculptural form. This sculptural landscape consists of steel fragments and metal that has been casted into a semi-figurative sculpture. It is abstract but recognizable with his version of clouds, railroad tracks and man made mountains. This makes the Hudson River feel like it’s frozen in time within a steel medium. Overall, the sculpture of the Hudson River Landscape spans 48 ¾ in high × 72 1/8 in long × 17 5/16 in wide and is located in the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. While it’s made from steel, it feels balanced and almost weightless. It moves through the space with a sense of animation. According to Smith, art is derived from life and that’s what this sculpture does. (37) It was sculpted from his reality, what he saw that day on a train from Albany to Poughkeepsie. His idea for this sculpture is that one may not see themselves traveling down the Hudson like he was, but for people to place themselves going down any other body of water. The sculpture was free to be created the way he saw it and then for the people to interpret what they saw from it. This was truly a piece of art that was sculpted from life and his experience and he did it the way he wanted it, without any limitations.

– Chelsea Joffrion


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