© 2022 The Estate of David Smith / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

David Smith

American, 1906–1965

Voltron XII,


Steel and painted bronze
Bequest of Anne Wertheim Werner, New York, through the America-Israel Cultural Foundation

At the Art Students League in New York in the late 1920s, American Abstract Expressionist David Smith was introduced to the work of Picasso, Mondrian, Kandinsky, and the Russian Constructivists, and soon discovered the welded-steel sculpture of Pablo Picasso and Julio González, which led him to combine painting and construction. From three-dimensional objects in wood, wire, coral, soldered metal, and other found materials, he graduated to welded metal sculptures (using an oxyacetylene torch) – the first ever made in the United States.

In 1962, Smith was commissioned to create a sculpture for the Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of the Two Worlds) in Spoleto, Italy. Given full use of five shuttered factory buildings in the town of Voltri, near Genoa, and permission to incorporate into his sculpture any tools, machines, or manufactured steel elements he found abandoned there, Smith produced twenty-seven works at a rate of nearly one per day. Upon returning to the United States, he had his remaining works-in-progress and additional parts sent from Italy to Bolton Landing, New York, where he completed the “Voltri-Bolton/Voltron/V. B.” series. In Voltron XII, Smith combined geometric forms and industrial parts to create a three-dimensional collage – a calligraphic construction of great grace and purity, resembling a human figure in the most abstract terms.

Adina Kamien

Artists in Action

David Smith: Cubes and Anarchy

David Smith, ca. 1942. David Smith miscellaneous papers, [ca. 1940]-1964. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. https://www.si.edu/object/david-smith:AAADCD_item_6073

Roland David Smith was an American abstract expressionist sculptor and painter, best known for creating large steel abstract geometric sculptures.