Project Profile: The David Smith Catalogue Raisonné

David Smith in his workshop, Bolton Landing, 1953.  Photograph by the artist.  © The Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York.

David Smith in his workshop, Bolton Landing, 1953. Photograph by the artist. © The Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York.

Artist: David Smith (1906-1965)
Planned Publication Title: David Smith Sculptures: A Catalogue Raisonné
Scope and Years Covered: Although best known for his steel and stainless steel sculptures, Smith also worked in coral, iron, lead, wood, marble, cast aluminum and bronze. The CR will comprise his entire body of sculptural works, created from 1932 to 1965, which includes more than 600 free-standing works, as well as cast silver and bronze relief sculptures and a small group of cast metal jewelry pendants.
Organized and Supported by: The Estate of David Smith (a.k.a. Terminal Iron Works LLC); Candida Smith, Rebecca Smith and Peter Stevens, Executive Director.
Planned Format: To be determined. We would like to publish the CR first as a book, and perhaps later in digital form.
Database: Filemaker Pro
Current CR Project Staff: Susan Cooke, Associate Director, The Estate of David Smith & Catalogue Raisonné Director. Allyn Shepard, Senior Researcher. Tracee Ng, Researcher.

CRSA: Is this project updating or building upon a previously published CR?
Susan Cooke: Yes. Our project is profoundly indebted to Rosalind Krauss’s CR of Smith’s sculpture, published by Garland Publishing, Inc., in 1977, which she originally submitted to Harvard University in 1969 as a component of her dissertation on Smith’s work. The Estate’s CR will re-verify, revise, update and expand the information presented by Krauss and greatly increase the visual documentation of individual works. Smith, with rare exceptions, did not make editions or multiple casts of his sculptures, and The Estate has never authorized posthumous casts of his works. In addition, because he sold or gave away few sculptures during his life and his own records and the inventories Krauss and the Estate completed soon after his death were so thorough, we don’t expect to add significantly to the number of works that comprise this body of his work.

CRSA: Do you have a publisher?
SC: We’ve had some preliminary conversations with digital and web publishers and hope to begin conversations with print publishers later this year. We have largely completed the inventory of Smith’s sculptures, have received CR application forms back from nearly all of the public and private collections we contacted, and have gathered most the data we need to write physical descriptions, and compile exhibition, literature and provenance histories for the individual works.
​We are in the process of defining what the components of the CR–the nature and scope of the individual catalogue entries, the accompanying historical, critical, analytical and biographical essays, the concordances and back matter—and are still gathering or commissioning publication-quality photographs of the works. All of which is to say that publication of the Smith CR–as whatever form it takes as a printed or digital entity—is still several years away.

CRSA: What are some of the Smith CR’s primary resources?
SC: Beginning with the creation of his earliest sculptures, and for the rest of his life, Smith documented his work extensively, in his sketchbooks and in a prodigious body of photographs, many annotated, that he took of individual sculptures and sculpture groups. These original records and images, together with Smith’s writings, lectures and interviews, his personal and business correspondence, clippings files, his library, and, to a much lesser extent, the tools and materials he used to make his sculptures, remain part of The Estate’s collections (microfilm copies of the photographs, sketchbooks and correspondence are also accessible on microfilm at the Archives of American Art).
​We have also relied heavily on the resources of the Archives of American Art, which preserves the correspondence and oral histories donated by Smith’s first wife, Dorothy Dehner, and the papers of several of his dealers and close friends; on the archives of The Museum of Modern Art, which houses much of the documentation gathered by Rosalind Krauss in the 1960s for her David Smith CR; and on many other public and private archives throughout the country. In addition, the Estate owns representative bodies of the artist’s sculptures, drawings, paintings, and prints, which we refer to constantly for information and insight about the esthetic and technical characteristics of his work. Our research also been enriched by the memories and uniquely intimate understanding of Smith’s work possessed by his daughters, Rebecca and Candida, and guided by the eye and expertise of Peter Stevens, Executive Director of the Estate for more than thirty years.

CRSA: What specific challenges do you face in researching DS?
SC: We spend a lot of time trying to answer very practical questions that then lead to interesting methodological and even philosophical discussions: how to standardize The Estate’s (and other owners’) measurements of a sculpture’s height, width and depth; how to define accurately the media and methods Smith used; how to record the physical changes to a work wrought by time or deliberate or unintended acts by the artist or others; how best to illustrate in photographs a work’s three-dimensional materiality and visual multiplicity, and convey the artist’s intention that these be experienced over time and as a function of the viewer’s own movement through space? Some of these questions also bedevil CR authors working with two-dimensional media, but the verbal and graphic conventions for representing sculpture seem less settled and less precise.

CRSA: When examining artworks, what is one thing the Smith project particularly makes sure to note?
SC: Like all CR researchers, we try to examine every work directly and also study them in newly taken high-resolution digital photographs. Looking closely at works, even those we assumed we knew well, has made us more sensitive to the importance of color and surface treatment in every sculpture Smith created. These aspects of his formal and expressive vocabulary have been often overlooked, if only because until fairly recently the images used to illustrate his work in books and catalogues were almost exclusively the artist’s own highly evocative, but rarely detailed or close-up, black and white photographs.
​We also try to take or obtain photographs of all signatures and inscriptions, because these have sometimes been ignored or incompletely or incorrectly recorded, and we also try to document whether the current base is original to the work. We also re-verify the identification of each work’s media and method of fabrication, because the artist’s own descriptions and information provided by subsequent owners (and even The Estate) are not infrequently cursory, contradictory, incomplete, or just plain wrong.

CRSA: What is something you have come across in your research that changed your understanding of the way DS worked?
SC: Smith’s habit of working in series is well known and often determines the conceptual structure of major surveys of his sculpture. By trying to pinpoint the start and completion dates of each individual work, whether or not Smith designated them as part of a series, we’ve been able to document more precisely when and how various series coincide and overlap, and to demonstrate the cross-pollination that occurs among sculpture series and between sculptures and paintings, drawings and photographs. Smith’s work is both tremendously heterogeneous and interconnected by recurring formal and expressive motifs. We hope to devise a visual design and structure for the CR that enables its users to understand the development of Smith works in terms of chronological simultaneity and chronological sequence.

CRSA: Are you preparing additional content beyond artwork, exhibitions, bibliography and chronology?
SC: We would like to quote Smith’s statements and sketchbook notes about particular works as well as summarize the critical commentary on the major sculptures in the individual CR entries. We also feel strongly that it’s important to illustrate most of his sculptures from multiple viewpoints, using recent color photographs and vintage black and white and color images taken by the artist, and also to illustrate related drawings and paintings, as a way of demonstrating his thinking processes and honoring his declaration that he did not “recognize the lines drawn between painting and sculpture aesthetically”.
​We will provide a detailed, illustrated biographical chronology, and we are considering including a number of longer, analytical and historical essays that will address the nature and stature of Smith’s sculptural achievements, his materials and working methods, the relationship between figuration and abstraction in his work, the concept of the sculptural series, and the evolution and significance of the sculpture installations he created on his property at Bolton Landing.

For more information, please contact The Estate of David Smith, 333 Hudson Street, Suite 904, New York, NY 10013. Tel: 212-627-4452. Email: info@davidsmithestate.org.

Project Profile: The Isamu Noguchi Catalogue Raisonné

Isamu Noguchi in his Long Island City studio with "Red Untitled" (1965-66)

Isamu Noguchi in his Long Island City studio with “Red Untitled” (1965-66), © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York

Artist:  Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988)
Scope:  Comprehensive
Years Covered:  1924 – 1988
Format:  Digital, accessible at http://catalogue.noguchi.org
Schedule:  Research has been ongoing for many years.  The first chapter of the publication premiered online in 2011.  New chapters will be added annually until research is complete (expected in 2018).
Database:  The Museum System (TMS)
Supported by:  The Isamu Noguchi Catalogue Raisonné is a project of The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York, with generous lead support from Tsuenko and Shoji Sadao.  Additional support from the Dedalus Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

CRSA:  What are some of the INCR’s primary resources?
INCR:  Noguchi was not very rigorous about studio inventories – very few were ever conducted, and he frequently changed galleries. Our project’s most consistent archival resource has been the artist’s extant archives, including more than 17,000 photographs of artworks, exhibitions, his various studios and travels.  In the late 1970s, Noguchi’s studio assistants also completed what became the first catalogue raisonné of his sculpture.  The Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi, 19241979: A Catalogue (Garland Press: 1980) was compiled with the help of Noguchi, and became the foundation for all future research and cataloging.

CRSA:  How do you hope the INCR might affect the public’s understanding of Isamu Noguchi?
INCR:  We hope that digital publication will offer a good sense of how extremely interdisciplinary and interrelated Noguchi’s practice was throughout his lifetime.  He worked in a variety of media and formats, ranging from discrete sculpture, to industrial design, stage sets and whole environments.  We’ve arranged the publication’s chronology in a way that shows what he was working on each year, alongside where he was traveling and exhibiting.  Some years will show the premier of a stage set, coinciding with the design of a table, as well as work in stone and wood.

CRSA:  What specific challenges do you face in researching Noguchi?
INCR: One that we are working on this year has to do with Noguchi’s work in bronze.  He would begin edition series with an original intent of the edition size, but only cast on-demand.  This is not an uncommon practice, but an added complication is that as he switched foundries every couple of years, and certain casts which began in the early 1960s were not revisited until the late 1980s.  This led to some errors in accounting in a series of more than 300 individual bronze sculptures.  It’s a tangled mess, but we’re working through it by reviewing foundry invoices and a tremendous amount of correspondence between Noguchi and his galleries, fabricators, and accountant.

CRSA:  Are you preparing additional content beyond artwork, exhibitions, bibliography and chronology?
INCR:  Not at this time, but our digital platform is flexible should we decide to add more content like audio, video, downloadable resources, etc.

CRSA:  Would you do anything extra if time and resources were unlimited?
INCR:  A fully digitized archive would be a tremendous help to our project and others researching Noguchi’s life and work.

CRSA:  Will updates be ongoing?
INCR:  We plan for updates and additions through at least 2018.

CRSA:  Would you consider adapting a print version?
INCR:  The Noguchi Museum has considered the possibility of publishing excerpts from the digital publication when research is complete.  We also hope that advances in digital press printing may make it possible to create a “print on demand” feature from our existing digital platform in the near future.

To learn more, visit The Noguchi Museum’s website at http://www.noguchi.org, or contact the The Isamu Noguchi Catalogue Raisonné by emailing catalogue@noguchi.org.

Project Profile: The Richard Diebenkorn Catalogue Raisonné

For the Forum’s first Project Profile, CRSA spoke with Carl Schmitz, Visual Resources & Art Research Librarian at The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, about the forthcoming Richard Diebenkorn catalogue raisonné:

Richard Diebenkorn in his studio, 1968 - © The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, Berkeley, Calif.

Richard Diebenkorn in his studio, 1968 – © The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, Berkeley, Calif.

Artist:  Richard Diebenkorn (1922–1993)
Scope: The Diebenkorn catalogue raisonné will be a comprehensive presentation of works by the artist. The 4 volumes of the catalogue raisonné will present some 4,900 unique artworks; primarily works on paper and paintings, but also a few mixed-media pieces and sketchbooks. RD was an active printmaker and there will be a future publication dedicated to his graphic works.
Database:  TMS from Gallery Systems
Print or Digital:  Print
Publisher: Yale University Press
Schedule:  When the project was first envisioned in the mid-90s, the estate was unaware of the full scope of the artist’s work and the level of effort needed to complete the project. It wasn’t until the Foundation established a relationship with Yale University Press–the only publisher to work on this scale for a mid-century artist–that we were able to develop a realistic sense of the time required for completion. Using a staggered schedule, two volumes on the artworks have been delivered to the editors and the last two volumes, the remaining artwork volume and the research volume with essays and supporting documents, will be wrapped up by the spring of 2014. The catalogue raisonné will go to press in 2016.
Organized by:  The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, Berkeley, Calif.

CRSA:  What are some of the Richard Diebenkorn Catalogue Raisonné’s primary resources?
Carl Schmitz:  The estate’s records and library, communication with museums, galleries, and auction houses, and extensive research conducted at libraries and archives are some of our tangible assets. Our most valuable resource, however, is the Diebenkorn family’s involvement.

CRSA:  What is unique about the approach being taken with this catalogue raisonné?
CS:  There are two essential elements to our work on the catalogue raisonné for which we maintain the highest possible standards: the color accuracy of our reproductions and the thoroughness of our research. Richard Grant, the Foundation’s Executive Director and the artist’s son-in-law, has made a strong commitment to making sure that the color of the reproductions on the page are as accurate as possible to the artworks. A good deal of this comes from his memory of RD looking at poor quality reproductions and feeling like black and white may have been a fairer representation. Our charge is to get the color right and to that end we are performing all original digital photography while utilizing and continually exploring advanced color management.
On the research side, we have been at it long enough that it’s a good shock to the system when there are new publications and new research that really changes things. The recent biography of Diebenkorn’s colleague David Park done by Nancy Boas is one of those game-changers. It’s amazing to think that there are completely new things to be discovered about an artist like Park who we lost over 50 years ago. For Diebenkorn, we hope that the catalogue raisonné will become a widely used source for discovery of new ideas about an artist we lost 20 years ago. Some of these insights will come through the included essays written by John Elderfield, Ruth Fine, Steven Nash, Gerald Nordland, and our editor Jane Livingston. Other, more obscured pearls will be found in the chronology’s footnotes, a listing in the exhibition history, or a citation in the bibliography. A wealth of material will certainly be left on the catalogue raisonné’s cutting room floor, but it will be available to scholars in the Foundation’s archive. In the meantime, the research process that drives us up to that point will continue to be purposeful.

CRSA: What specific challenges do you face in researching Richard Diebenkorn?
CS:  We are at least somewhat fortunate that Diebenkorn didn’t often utilize non-traditional media and that he didn’t have a studio production line. This may have helped us avoid some of the difficulties involved in the authentication process. Being located in California can be a challenge given the distance to some wonderful resources like all of the New York Art Resources Consortium libraries and the Archives of American Art’s Washington headquarters, but this just means that we have to be efficient when there’s an opportunity to get out there. One of our goals is to help build more resources in the west.

CRSA: Are you preparing additional content beyond artwork, exhibitions, bibliography and chronology?
CS: There will also be essays and concordances, and a few planned special features include illustrations of items from the artist’s studio and a section dedicated to writings and statements by the artist.

CRSA: Are there plans for supplements? Would you consider adapting a digital version?
CS: We are still very much in the work of the 4 volumes that will be ink on paper but are constantly reflecting on future endeavors.

For more information, please refer to The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation’s website http://www.diebenkorn.org/