Traditionally, sculpture was created by carving in stone or wood or casting in bronze, but American sculptors in the 1950s began to make "constructed sculptures" by welding, bolting, or otherwise affixing elements together. Cubi I, the first of Smith's final series of sculptures, is constructed of cubes of stainless steel welded together, their surfaces polished to a high gloss and then abraded. The burnishing allows the surface to take on, without directly reflecting, the colors of the world around it. By giving this work a strongly frontal orientation, Smith plays with our perception of the difference between two- and three-dimensional objects; our understanding of the sculpture equivocates between flatness and bulk, between line and volume, and between balance and weight.
Artist David Smith, American, 1906 - 1965
Title
  • Cubi I
Date 1963
Medium Stainless Steel
Dimensions Overall: 124 × 34 1/2 × 33 1/2 inches (315 cm × 87.6 cm × 85.1 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Special Purchase Fund
Accession Number 66.36
Department Contemporary Art after 1950
Not On View
Signed Signed on base: David Smith
Inscriptions Inscribed, dated, titled on base: March 4-63 Cubi I
the artist's studio;
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery;
1966-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Rubin, William. "David Smith." Art International 7 (December 1963): 48-49 (ill.).

"Malerei Skulptur." Documenta III. Cologne, 1964, no.3, p. 296, p. 297 (ill.).

David Smith: A Memorial Exhibition. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1965, p. 8-9 (ill.).

Arts Council of Great Britain. David Smith 1906-1965. London, 1966, p. 27.

David Smith 1906-1965: A Retrospective Exhibtion. Exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University. Cambridge, 1966, p. 88, p. 55 (ill.).

Greenberg, Clement. "David Smith: Critical Comment." Art in America 54 (January-February 1966): 27-32 (ill.).

Gray, Cleve, ed. David Smith by David Smith. New York, 1968, p. 151 (ill.).

David Smith. Exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. New York, 1969, pp. 154-155 (ill.).

Noguchi and Rickey and Smith. Exh. cat., Indiana University Art Museum. Bloomington, 1970, p. 38, p. 40 (ill.).

Mendelowitz, D.M. A History of American Art. Second edition. New York, 1970, fig. 676, p. 500.

Krauss, Rosalind E. Terminal Iron Works: The Sculpture of David Smith. Cambridge, 1971, pp. 183-184 (ill.).

Bulletin of the DIA 50, no. 2 (1971): 20 (ill.).

"The Detroit Institute of Arts Illustrated Handbook", 1971, p.184.

"200 Years of American Art," The Whitney Museum of American Art, 1976, no.255, p.347., p.190:color plate 49, p.160:ill, cover ill.

Silver, Jonathon. "Remaking the History of American Sculpture." Art News 75 (Summer 1976): 70-72 (ill.).

Krauss, Rosalind E. The Sculpture of David Smith: A Catalogue Raisonne. New York, 1977, p.117, fig. 649.

Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. David Smith: Painter, Sculptor, Draftsman. Exh. cat., Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Washington, D.C., 1982, p.18.

David Smith. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1982, p. 201, pp. 221-223.

Tuchman, Phyllis. "In Detail: David Smith and 'Cubi XVIII.'" Portfolio 5 (January-February 1983): 78-82.

David Smith: Medals for Dishonor, 1937-1940. Exh. cat., Henry Moore Center for the Study of Sculpture. Leeds, 1991, p. 19.

David Smith 1906-1965. Exh. cat., IVAM/Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Madrid, 1996, pp. 244-245, p. 268.

Replacing the Shower of Sparks with the Spray of Paint: Sprays and Drawings. Birmingham, MI, 1997.

The Fields of David Smith. New York, 1999, p. 130 (ill.).

Crossroads of American Sculpture: David Smith, George Rickey, John Chamberlain, Robert Indiana, William T. Wiley, Bruce Nauman. Indianapolis, 2000, p. 108 (ill.).

Welded Sculpture of the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Neuberger Museum of Art. New York, 2000, p. 29, fig. 29.

David Smith: A Centennial. Exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. New York, 2006, fig. 104.