David Smith ( American, 1906 - 1965 )

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General Description

David Smith's Cubi series represents a new paradigm for contemporary sculpture in the 1960s. In a work of great force and scale, Smith fuses ideas of abstraction borrowed from European modernists, with the psychological content and newfound freedoms of scale and gesture seen in postwar American art. One of a series of twenty-eight Cubi sculptures that date from 1961 to 1965, Cubi XVII is composed of a precarious jumble of simple metal shapes set atop an elegant round column. Smith proudly brought to his art the talents of the welder and the mechanic, readily evident not only in this piece's shiny, even luxuriant surface of brushed metal, but in its engineering as well. The juxtaposition of a myriad of burnished shapes creates a dynamic composition that becomes fully apparent only upon seeing it in the round; angles converge and split off as the viewer walks around the work, while light plays on and over the form's elegantly crafted surfaces. Smith prompts an active, participatory relationship between his viewers and the abstract forms, a type of interaction that would play an important role in minimalist, process, and conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s, attesting to Smith's influential importance in postwar art.

Adapted from

  • Charles Wylie, "Cubi XVII," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 277.

  • Bonnie Pitman, ed., Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 295.

Related Multimedia

Collections smARTphone video; Jeffrey Grove discusses Cubi XVII by David Smith (DMA collection 1965.32.McD)
Learn about David Smith.

Fun Facts

  • This sculpture weighs 556 lbs.