David Smith - The Last Nudes

David Smith in his studio

Photo © The Estate of Alexander Liberman

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Opening Reception: September 14, 2000 6-8pm

These paintings have a radical freshness, breadth, and apparent spontaneity, due in part to the fact that Smith radically cropped them from unstretched canvas...As a group, the paintings convey a dynamic multitude of facial expressions and attitudinal types, ranging from the supine odalisque,...to the intellectual reader,...to the confrontational gladiator. They even seem to include the descriptive allusions to such popular types as the silver-screen vamp...the coy teenage temptress, post-Lolita...the bohemian earth mother, and the modern -day Amazon--a powerful woman on the phone.*

Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of David Smith: The Last Nudes. The exhibition is a selection of paintings made in the winter of 1964, during the last months of Smith's life. Painted at his studio in Bolton Landing, upstate New York, they are being shown for the first time.

Beginning in the late twenties, and throughout his life, Smith used the figure as a touchstone from which drawings, paintings and sculpture drew resonant meaning. In the case of the Last Nudes, the starting point was photographs taken by Smith of models in everyday poses: standing in a hallway, reading a book, casually sitting in a chair, their nudity a disjunctive confrontation. As Candida Smith points out, "The mediation of the photographic technique created an abstracted space between artist and model."

The physical potency of the photographs was transformed by Smith through his dynamically gestural painting process into these formally powerful, sexually charged paintings. Due to their shocking anti-puritanical content, as well as the difficulty in integrating them with the heroically "pure" concept of "Abstract Expressionism," the Nudes have been censoriously omitted from most discussion of Smith's work. Ranging from lyrically rendered drawing to explosively gestural abstraction, these paintings exemplify Smith's refusal to allow for a delineation between painting and sculpture or between abstract and figurative work.