Tanktotem VI

David Smith

Decatur, Indiana, USA, 1906 - Bennington, Vermont, USA, 1965

In the 1950s, the sculpture of David Smith fulfilled the terms set for the art form by critic Clement Greenberg: “Space is there to be shaped, divided, enclosed, but not to be filled”, a new sculpture tends to “abandon stone, bronze, and clay for industrial materials like iron, steel, alloys […] which are worked with the blacksmith’s, the welder’s and even the carpenter’s tools. […] The new construction-sculpture begins to make itself felt as most representative, even if not the most fertile, visual art of our time.” In the middle years of his output, which the Tanktotem series and this piece come from, Smith produced a significant body of work in painted steel, inclining towards the representation of totemic and metamorphic figures that projected distanciation. Such is the case in Tanktotem VI (1957), a work which, like the rest of the series, has a strong iconic feel, with its hieratic vertical front view, creating an eccentric side view that appears unsteady, where gravity is challenged by emptied materiality. The sculpture was built by the assemblage of various industrial elements; some are parts of boiler tanks, convex in shape, blending with the rest of the figure, alluding to the female body with rhythmic curves.

Carmen Fernández Aparicio