June 24 through September 17, 2023
PRESS RELEASE | GLENS FALLS, NY, JULY 11, 2022 — In honor of The Hyde Collection’s sixtieth anniversary in 2023 of its opening as a fine arts museum, we are pleased to announce the exhibition Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music, and Dance. Curated by Dr. Jennifer Field, Executive Director of the Estate of David Smith, this project will be the first museum exhibition to focus exclusively on the indelible influence of music and dance on Smith’s work in painting, drawing, and sculpture. The exhibition will feature approximately twenty-five loans from important private and public collections, the Estate of David Smith, and a selection of rare archival materials. The Hyde intends to draw scholars, collectors, and enthusiasts to celebrate Smith’s legacy as well as the enduring traditions of dance and music in the southern Adirondack region.
David Smith (1906-1965; b. Decatur, IN) is historically recognized as one of the great sculptors of the twentieth century. Smith began summering in the hamlet of Bolton Landing, near Lake George, beginning in the late 1920s, and he settled there permanently in 1940. “The Adirondack region that encompasses Bolton Landing and Glens Falls was inseparable from Smith’s artistic practice,” says Field. “A dialogue with nature—the mountain landscape, the change of seasons, the flight of birds—is reflected in his artwork in every medium.” In the 1940s, inspired by live performances in the region and in New York City, Smith began a dynamic artistic campaign that depicts dancing figures and musicians absorbed by song. After this time, Smith’s work would become larger and more abstract. The impact of music and dance, and Smith’s surroundings in his adopted home of Bolton Landing, were integral to reaching this critical point of artistic maturity.
Jason Ward, Hyde Collection Board of Trustees Chair, notes, “As part of his commitment to the area, Smith became deeply involved with the foundation of The Hyde Collection before his premature death in 1965. Charlotte Hyde, the founder of the Museum, was a friend of David Smith and fond of his artistic creations. David Smith was one of the Collection’s earliest trustees and curated The Hyde’s very first summer exhibition, installing his own sculptures on the lawn. In the spirit of that inaugural event, Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music, and Dance will feature two graceful, vertical sculptures from later in Smith’s career measuring up to twelve feet tall that poetically evoke the essence of music, dance, and nature. This intimate association with David Smith,” Ward continues, “is what the Museum seeks to highlight with this anniversary exhibition.”
Of this exhibition, David Smith’s daughters, Rebecca and Candida Smith, state:
“I am thrilled to see my father’s work back at The Hyde Collection, where he was the first guest curator, sharing his own work when the Museum first opened sixty years ago. It is meaningful to present this art in an institution of this rural region in which it was made and the artist worked. In fact, many artists throughout the time and at present have been inspired and nourished by the beauty of the Adirondacks. My father wanted his sculptures to be experienced in nature, in changing light, weather, and seasons. In the morning, he walked down the driveway to the ‘shop,’ a term he preferred to ‘studio.’
At night, my sister and I listened to the rattle of spray cans as he worked on spray drawings with music playing in the background as we fell asleep. I feel in all of my father’s works
a great love of music – its influence permeates his work.” – Rebecca Smith
“David Smith’s love of music and dance was fundamental to his identity. He always said that an artist is a person of their time and he responded to the contemporaneous performing arts along with writing, painting and sculpture. There was a powerful community of artists and performers in the southern Adirondacks which enriched the wild beauty of the mountains and lakes. It reverberated through Smith’s practice. What a fecund atmosphere for a young artist! Pioneering modern dance, avant-garde harpsichord and experimental cinema helped build his world.” – Candida Smith
Smith moved to New York City from the Midwest in 1926 after a short stay in Washington, D.C. At a boarding house on the Upper West Side, he met fellow resident and artist Dorothy Dehner; they would marry the following year. Dehner encouraged Smith to enroll at the Art Students League. He studied painting for several years and became associated with the artistic milieu that included Stuart Davis, Willem de Kooning, and John Graham. Smith would subsequently become best known for his sculptures, which he began to make with found metal elements using the industrial method of welding—a skill that he first learned working in a Studebaker factory in South Bend, Indiana, and then honed at Terminal Iron Works, a metalworking shop on the Brooklyn waterfront near the apartment he shared with Dehner.
In acknowledgment of the vital role Dehner played in Smith’s early career and his life in the Adirondacks, Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music, and Dance will include a selection of works by Dehner. Dehner would leave the marriage in 1950 and return to New York City, but the environment of Bolton Landing would remain an integral part of Smith’s artistic practice for the rest of his life. Smith’s works would become increasingly large and inventive in his mountain home’s private and undeveloped landscape. He built a new house for himself and studios for making drawings, paintings, and sculptures, which he began photographing out of doors, often using the open sky or the lake as a backdrop.
Beginning in the mid-1930s, Smith used photographs he took of Dehner in dance poses, and a series of published photographs by Barbara Morgan of Martha Graham, as the basis of a sustained study of the female figure in a variety of dynamic postures. For several summers, beginning in 1944, Franziska Boas, daughter of the famed anthropologist Franz Boas, ran an interracial dance school in Bolton. Smith drew and photographed the students to create a small body of drawings, paintings, and sculptures depicting dance. Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music, and Dance will feature Smith’s sculpture Boaz Dancing School (1945)—a stylistically radical interpretation of Boas’ studio, and a rare example, in Smith’s oeuvre, of an explicit reference to a particular historical and autobiographical moment. This sculpture has been displayed in public only once since 1947. The present exhibition occasions its second showing in nearly eighty years.
Music was an important and consistent element in Smith’s life. In interviews, he often mentioned the classical music that accompanied him late in the evenings at Bolton Landing. He relied on the radio for “companionship,” explaining, “I use the music as company in the manual labor part of a sculpture, of which there is much.” Occasionally, after months of steady work, Smith would make trips to New York City to visit friends, see museum and gallery shows, eat in restaurants and cafeterias, and attend concerts and jazz clubs. Sometimes, he attended concerts locally during the lively summer concert season in Lake George.
Among Smith’s closest local friends was Hugh Allen Wilson, Chair of the Music Department at Union College in Schenectady, and a driving force behind the creation of the Glens Falls Symphony and The Marcella Sembrich Opera Museum, formerly the teaching studio of soprano Marcella Sembrich and now the home of an annual summer music festival. Both men were devotees of Baroque music, and Smith presented Wilson with a drawing of a concert by harpsichordist Sylvia Marlowe that Smith may have attended in 1946 [Untitled (Marlowe Concert, Jan. 1946)]. For the first time, Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music, and Dance will reunite this drawing, at The Hyde Collection, with two related drawings by Smith that were also owned by Wilson. This lively suite of works prompted a series Smith then executed on the theme of Euterpe and Terpsichore, the ancient Greek muses of music and dance [e.g., Untitled (Euterpe & Terpsichore), Untitled (1946), Untitled (Terpsichore and Euterpe in Landscape)], which culminated in a pair of abstract and technically innovative sculptures (e.g., Euterpe and Terpsichore).
Around this time, Smith created another series based on the renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, who regularly performed throughout the northeastern United States and settled in the Adirondacks, about an hour north of Bolton Landing, for a short time in the 1940s. Smith captured the psychological intensity and the fundamentally geometric configuration of the cellist and his instrument in a group of paintings and in the sculpture Cello Player. These works, which will be reunited in the exhibition for the first time in nearly twenty years, are accomplished examples of the complex and abstract direction Smith took his paintings and sculptures in the mid-1940s.
About the artist
Regarded as one of the most innovative sculptors of his generation, David Smith (1906-1965) was pioneering in his ability to fuse the influences of Surrealism and Cubism, seeking to redefine what sculpture could be for the modern world. Exhibitions devoted to David Smith’s sculptures, paintings, and drawings have been presented internationally since the 1950s. Smith represented the United States at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1951, and at La Biennale di Venezia in 1954 and 1958. The Museum of Modern Art presented his first retrospective in 1957. His work was included in Documenta II in 1959 and Documenta III in 1964. In 1962, at the invitation of Giovanni Carandente and the Italian government, Smith went to Voltri, near Genoa, Italy, and executed 27 sculptures for the Spoleto Festival. Numerous solo exhibitions of Smith’s work have been mounted in the decades since, including shows at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1969, 2006); the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (1982); Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan (1994); MNCA, Reina Sofia, Madrid (1996); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2000); Tate Modern, London (2006); and Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY (2017).
About The Hyde Collection
The Hyde is one of the Northeast’s exceptional small art museums with distinguished European and American art collections. Comparable to that of a major metropolitan museum, the core collection, acquired by Museum founders Louis and Charlotte Hyde, includes works by such artists as Sandro Botticelli, El Greco, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Edgar Degas, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and American artists Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, and James McNeill Whistler. The Museum’s Modern and Contemporary art collection features works by artists including Josef Albers, Dorothy Dehner, Sam Gilliam, Adolph Gottlieb, Grace Hartigan, Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, George McNeil, Robert Motherwell, Ben Nicholson, Robert Rauschenberg, and Bridget Riley. Today, The Hyde offers significant national and international exhibitions and a packed schedule of events that help visitors experience art in new ways.
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