Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hudson River Landscape

Hudson River Landscape (1951) can be seen in the excellent David Smith retrospective at Tate Modern. A 'drawing in space', it has affinities to those abstract landscapes made by painters in the fifties, in which a place is suggested through some recognisable elements that merge with more mysterious expressive gestures, suggesting the difficulty of capturing time, memory and the different views that make up any space. Smith said it 'came in part from drawings made on a train between Albany and Poughkeepsie. A synthesis of drawings from ten trips over a 75 mile stretch...' On one of these drawings displayed in the exhibition you can read the words 'spring snow partially settled.' For a moment the whole sculpture becomes a set of contours in a white landscape, the walls of Tate Modern standing in for the snow and the sky. Then you remember that the sculpture evokes travel in different times and weather conditions, but there lingers an impression that aspects of the sculpture (like the oval with an irregular centre resembling the edge of a snowdrift in a hollow) arise from the memory of early spring referred to in the drawing.

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