This is one of approximately 11 stainless steel sculptures made by David Smith between 1957 and 1962. It is similar to the others in being made up of flat rectangular sections, twenty of which are in a two-dimensional array. Apart from calling the series Unities, he had no subject matter in mind that could be put into words: for him the sculptures were completely visual.
Working with an assortment of pre-cut shapes, Smith experimented with various layouts on the floor. Shapes radiate up and out from the longest and thinnest plane, and in their tumbling just manage to maintain contact with each other around two hollow spaces, as though frozen after an explosion in a moment of transitional instability, the tiny thin strip hanging on the other side being an unpromising counterweight
Grinding away the deposits left by the arc welding may have encouraged Smith to make a feature of the circular scouring of the plates’ surfaces. He conceived the series for display in bright light, which accentuates the rhythm of the artist’s hands in the buffing, as though he was painting in steel, and gives the surfaces a holographic appearance of movement and depth.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008