Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Unveils Landmark Exhibition David Smith: The Nature of Sculpture Opening September 23, 2024

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Unveils Landmark Exhibition David Smith: The Nature of Sculpture Opening September 23, 2024

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is proud to announce the groundbreaking exhibition David Smith: The Nature of Sculpture, showcasing the prolific and inventive work of David Smith (1906–1965). This landmark exhibition, the first to explore Smith's deep engagement with nature, will open on September 23, 2024, and will be on view through March 2, 2025.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., July 10, 2024 Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is proud to announce the groundbreaking exhibition David Smith: The Nature of Sculpture, showcasing the prolific and inventive work of David Smith (1906–1965). This landmark exhibition, the first to explore Smith's deep engagement with nature, will open on September 23, 2024, and will be on view through March 2, 2025.

The art of David Smith is profuse and marvelously inventive. Working in multiple media, formats, and scales, he blurred boundaries between painting and sculpture and between traditional genres such as landscape and figuration. Smith's bountiful oeuvre has secured him a firm place within art history and his adventurous approach to three-dimensional form has permanently expanded the vocabulary and range of sculptural practice.

"While Smith is recognized as the most important sculptor of the 20th century, there is much to learn about his art and its relation to nature," says Suzanne Ramljak, VP of Collections & Curatorial Affairs at Meijer Gardens. "We are excited to reveal this lesser-known aspect of his career."

Smith is widely hailed as the first American artist to make welded metal sculpture and to absorb industrial methods and materials into his creative repertoire. His inventiveness and contributions to sculptural practice extend far beyond machine vernacular and technique, however. Indeed, many have traced the origins of modern sculpture parks to Smith's unprecedented outdoor installations on his Bolton Landing property in upstate New York. For Smith, nature was not only a source of inspiration but also served as studio, accomplice and staging ground for his complex sculptural works.

"While David Smith is recognized as the most important sculptor of the 20th century, there is still much to be learned about his expansive art, especially as it relates to the natural world," says exhibition curator Suzanne Ramljak, Vice President of Collections & Curatorial Affairs at Meijer Gardens. "We are excited to reveal this crucial and lesser-known aspect of Smith's career at Meijer Gardens, where sculpture and nature are so intimately bound."

David Smith: The Nature of Sculpture will feature a selection of some 40 sculptures, alongside related paintings, reliefs, and works on paper, providing an in-depth exploration of Smith's sustaining connection with nature. Uniting key loans from major lenders—including The Whitney Museum of American Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Storm King Art Center—the exhibition will be arranged in loose chronological order, beginning with Smith's earliest sculptures from 1932 to the year before his accidental death in 1965.

Viewers will encounter nature-based work from every decade of Smith's career, including:

This exhibition will have a particularly strong resonance at Meijer Gardens, where Smith's work will be in direct dialogue with the natural environment, including larger pieces situated out of doors. Do not miss this eye-opening exhibition, exclusively in Grand Rapids, and come witness David Smith's thrilling sculptural translations of the natural world he knew and loved.

For more information, please visit: MeijerGardens.org/DavidSmith

Exhibition Catalogue:
David Smith: The Nature of Sculpture will be accompanied by an exhibition catalogue co-published by Meijer Gardens and Hirmer/University of Chicago Press. The publication will feature contributions by the artist's daughters, reflecting on Smith's lived domestic experience of nature; an essay by curator Suzanne Ramljak, surveying Smith's engagement with nature as material source, subject matter, and preferred site for his sculpture; appreciations by contemporary artists Beatriz Cortez and Mark di Suvero, addressing Smith's contributions and connections to current art practice; and an illustrated artist's chronology highlighting key nature-based events in David Smith's life and art.

Exhibition Programming:
Unless otherwise noted, programs are included in the cost of admission and registration is not required.

Moving Out: David Smith & Outdoor Sculpture
Wednesday, October 9, 2–3 pm
Join Suzanne Ramljak, exhibition curator and Vice President of Collections & Curatorial Affairs, and Amber Oudsema, Curator of Arts Education, on a walk to explore the lasting legacy of famed Modernist master David Smith. Discover his influence on sculpture parks as we know them and the many successful artists who followed in Smith's creative footsteps.

A full list of exhibition-related activities can be found at: MeijerGardens.org/calendar [MeijerGardens.org/calendar __title__ MeijerGardens.org/calendar]

David Smith: The Nature of Sculpture is made possible by:
Louis and Helen Padnos Foundation
The Meijer Foundation
Bill Padnos and Margy Kaye
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Foundation
Botanic and Sculpture Societies of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

About David Smith
David Smith was born in 1906 in Decatur, Indiana. He worked briefly as a welder in an automobile factory before moving to New York City to become an artist in 1926. He studied painting at the Art Students league, where Cubism and Surrealism were foundational to his practice. He began welding sculpture around 1933 after seeing reproductions of constructed steel sculptures by Pablo Picasso and Julio González. He later became associated with the abstract expressionist movement and paved the way for minimalism with radically simplified, geometric works. Painting and drawing remained integral to what Smith called his 'work stream'. He embraced a holistic attitude toward artmaking and dismissed the idea of a separation between mediums. Acknowledging the tradition of painted sculpture throughout art history and drawing from the bold palettes of modernism and pop culture, Smith often painted his sculptures. In his later years, he installed his sculptures in the fields of his home in the Adirondack Mountains, where a dialogue between the art object and nature emerged as central to his practice. His sculpture-filled landscape inspired Storm King Art Center and other sculpture parks throughout the world, as well as anticipating the land and environmental art movements. David Smith died in 1965, leaving behind an expansive, complex, and powerful body of work that continues to exert influence upon subsequent generations of artists.

Smith began exhibiting his work as early as 1930. His first survey was organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1957. His sculpture was represented by the United States at the São Paulo Biennale in 1951 and at the Venice Biennale in 1954 and 1958. Posthumous retrospectives have been held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1979 and 2006, which traveled to Tate Modern, London and the Centre Pompidou, Paris) and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2011, which traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio). Other major surveys have been organized at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (1996), Storm King Art Center (1997–99), and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK. A biography by Michael Brenson, David Smith: The Art and Life of a Transformational Sculptor, was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 2022.
(Biography source: Hauser & Wirth Gallery)

About Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, one of the world's most significant botanic and sculpture experiences, was recently named the Top Sculpture Park in the United States by USA Today's "10Best Readers' Choice" and listed as the 89th-most-visited museum in the world by The Art Newspaper, the leading global art news publication. The permanent collection highlights hundreds of sculptures from internationally acclaimed artists Magdalena Abakanowicz, El Anatsui, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Mark di Suvero, Marshall Fredericks, Henry Moore, Beverly Pepper, Jaume Plensa, Auguste Rodin, Richard Serra, Yinka Shonibare CBE and Ai Weiwei, among others. Indoor galleries with changing sculpture exhibitions have presented shows by Jonathan Borofsky, Edgar Degas, Jim Dine, Richard Hunt, Cristina Iglesias, Michele Oka Donor, George Segal and others. The 158-acre main campus features Michigan's largest tropical conservatory; one of the country's largest interactive children's gardens; arid and Victorian gardens with bronze sculptures by Edgar Degas and Auguste Rodin; a carnivorous plant house; outdoor gardens, including a replica 1930s-era farm garden; an 8-acre Japanese garden featuring contemporary sculpture; and a 1,900-seat outdoor amphitheater garden, showcasing an eclectic mix of world-renowned touring musicians each summer. Education programs welcome 80,000 students and guests each year. Culinary Arts & Events offerings include weddings, corporate meetings and award-winning catering.
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park promotes the enjoyment, understanding, and appreciation of gardens, sculpture, the natural environment, and the arts.