press release

Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce Personage, an exhibition of sculptures, paintings and drawings by the American sculptor David Smith. Personage spans Smith's artistic output from 1947 until just prior to his untimely death in 1965. This exhibition celebrates David Smith's centenary and coincides with a major retrospective of his work at Tate Modern.

Curated by Candida Smith and Peter Stevens of the David Smith Estate, Personage includes significant loans from the Tate Gallery and the Reina Sofia Madrid, as well as from important private collections and the estate of the artist. It focuses on Smith's constant return to the motif of the human figure, making visual comparisons among his sculptures, drawings and paintings. This is a rare opportunity to consider the impact of Smith's career on the development of twentieth-century sculpture.

Smith pioneered the welding technique in sculpture and is best known for his large-scale metal pieces constructed from used machine parts, abandoned tools and scrap metal. Beginning in the late twenties, and throughout his life, Smith used the figure as a point of reference from which drawings, paintings and sculpture drew resonant meaning. In one of his historic interviews from 1961, David Sylvester asked Smith whether it was correct to see personages in the seemingly abstract sculptures that he was creating at the time. Smith replied, "They don't always start that way…I can't get away from it. There is no such thing as truly abstract. Man always has to work from his life." As a sculptor who had begun his career as a painter, Smith's works demonstrate a refusal to delineate between painting and sculpture or between abstract and figurative work.

David Smith was born in Indiana in 1906 and died in a car accident in Vermont in 1965. Throughout and beyond his lifetime, his work has been exhibited internationally, including the Museum of Art, Tokyo (1994 travelling), The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art (2000), and the current David Smith Centennial (travelling, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, Centre Pompidou, Paris and Tate Modern, London).

A fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Alex Potts and including many previously unpublished photographs taken by Smith will accompany the exhibition.


David Smith
Kuratoren: Candida Smith, Peter Stevens