The Easel

8th June 2021

David Smith: Follow My Path

Iron and steel are quintessentially modern materials and Smith was the master of their use in sculpture. His works tended to be modest rather than monumental, and often were painted to achieve a desired effect. Welded steel can seem old hat, now that assemblages predominate. That doesn’t diminish Smith’s development of 20th century modernism, something he achieved with nothing more than “manual labour, grit and a bit of magic”.

Martin Wong’s Tender, Gritty Cityscapes Helped Me Appreciate My Hometown

Wong’s favourite colour, it seems, was brown – the colour of the brick buildings in his Lower East Side locale. Self-taught, he developed a documentary style and focused on his local community. The highly detailed buildings were but a backdrop against which to “glorify that which often gets passed over”. His community was a hybrid, one that “crosses racial boundaries and challenges gender stereotypes … a community simultaneously real and imagined.”

“Alice Neel: People Come First” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

A show covered previously, but this review couldn’t be more different. Neel was a “second tier” talent with a “meanness of spirit”. Striving to communicate immediacy, her portraits instead can come across as “blunt” and “superficial”. The character of her sitters is unexplored, making them seem like “butterflies in a curio cabinet” and the works “peculiarly neutral”. She was “a painter endowed with a cruel and unlovely gift.”