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Baltimore Museum of Art Opens Advancing Abstraction in Modern Sculpture

One of the earliest examples of David Smith’s welding is shown for the first time in this exhibition of approximately 40 works drawn from the BMA’s collection, the Estate of David Smith, and private collections. Open July 21, 2010 – February 20, 2011.

Once considered “lost” by the Smith Estate, Head with Cogs for Eyes came to the BMA last year as part of a generous bequest. It is joined by works by Hans Arp, Naum Gabo, Julio Gonzalez, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, and other modern artists who moved beyond the figure to create sculptures based on a new language of abstract forms.

David Smith
Born in Decatur, Indiana on March 9, 1906, Smith grew up in Paulding, Ohio, where his father Harvey ran the Paulding Telephone Company and mother Golda taught school. He studied at Ohio University and the University of Notre Dame, but dropped out to become a welder on an automobile production line in South Bend, Indiana. He joined the Art Students League of New York in 1927. There, he discovered the works of Picasso, Mondrian, Kandinsky, and the Russian Constructivists, and became friends with Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Jan Matulka, and Jackson Pollock.

Profoundly influenced by the welded sculptures of Julio González and of Picasso, Smith started devoting himself entirely to metal sculptures, constructing compositions from steel and “found” scrap material.

David Smith died on May 23, 1965 aged 59.

Image: David Smith, Head with Cogs for Eyes.1933. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Ryda and Robert H. Levi Collection, Gift of the Estate of Ryda Hecht Levi, Baltimore, BMA 2009.194 ©Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NYM

The Baltimore Museum of Art is home to an internationally renowned collection of 19th-century, modern, and contemporary art. Founded in 1914 with a single painting, the BMA today has 90,000 works of art—including the largest holding of works by Henri Matisse in the world. Throughout the Museum, visitors will find an outstanding selection of European and American fine and decorative arts, 15th- through 19th-century prints and drawings, contemporary art by established and emerging contemporary artists, and objects from Africa, Asia, the Ancient Americas, and Pacific Islands. Two beautifully landscaped gardens display an array of 20th-century sculpture that is an oasis in the city.

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