Phillips Curator Susan Behrends Frank gives insight on special exhibition David Smith Invents, on view at the Phillips from Feb. 12 through May 15, 2011.

David Smith Invents explores an extraordinarily fertile period in the career of the sculptor David Smith (1906--65) from the early 1950s to the early 1960s. On exhibit are 40 works, including sculptures, paintings, drawings, and Smith's own photographs of his sculptures.

Smith famously recognized no distinction between sculpture, painting, and drawing, except for one dimension, asserting that the act of creating does not change just because the medium changes. Instead, he used such widely varying materials as steel, bronze, oil paint, aerosol spray enamels, ink, and tempera to explore his ideas in two and three dimensions.

The work of Smith's last 15 years used an increasingly simplified vocabulary of predominantly geometric forms. In the first part of the 1950s, he was particularly captivated by concave and convex forms, from which he produced endless variations on volume, shape, line, and contour, without employing solid mass. In the works in this exhibition, concave and convex shapes play out in two and three dimensions in multiple configurations and repetitions, moving freely between media.

David Smith Invents is the first exhibition of Smith's work in Washington, D.C., in 25 years. The exhibition is organized by The Phillips Collection; the curator is Susan Behrends Frank, Ph.D., associate curator for research. A 112-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition and is available


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