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Growing Forms

David Smith

Artwork Details

Growing Forms
David Smith
cast aluminum on wood base
27 15/16 in x 8 11/16 in x 6 3/10 in (70.96 cm x 22.07 cm x 16.03 cm);27 15/16 in x 8 11/16 in x 6 3/10 in (70.96 cm x 22.07 cm x 16.03 cm);69 3/10 in x 13 in x 13 in (176.05 cm x 33.02 cm x 33.02 cm)
Bequest of Charles E. Palmer in honor of Jean Paul Slusser


March 28, 2009
David Smith was virtually untrained as an artist. He made his first welded sculptures in 1933 using skills he had learned on the automobile production line during time off from school, an experience that was formative of his sculptural process. He credited the welded metal sculptures of Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) and Julio González (1876–1942) with giving him the license to use a skill he learned in manufacturing to make art. This is one of the very few metal sculptures that Smith executed during the war years, when metal was extremely scarce. Some have interpreted the teardrop-shaped abstract form as depicting a fetus suspended in the womb; it may also be a “glyph,” Smith’s term for the hieroglyph-like symbols that he used to represent complex psychic states. The totemic wooden base that is integral to the work and the stark opposition between the composite parts’ tactile surfaces are nods to the sculptor Brancusi, for whom Smith professed great admiration.

Subject Matter:

About organic form in itself, this sculpture includes an abstracted figure who could be either a woman or a fetus in the womb. The elements make the piece a commentary on the organic, fertility, and nurture. The closed form with its internal voids reflects simultaneously on protection and vulnerability.

Physical Description:

A roughly teardrop-shaped sculpture of shiny cast aluminum. Within the basic organic shape are several curls and a shape that appears to be a woman or perhaps a fetus. The sculpture sits atop a tall wooden base composed of a stack of fat disc shapes.

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