David Smith

David Smith couldn't have had a commoner name, but it also couldn't have been more appropriate. "Smith" is an occupational name, meaning that its bearer had an ancestor who was a blacksmith, forging horseshoes and other ironwork on an anvil. David Smith was always proud of belonging to Local 2064 of the United Steelworkers of America. He updated his ancestor's practices to weld both iron and steel into the powerful and quintessentially 20th century sculptures that had already earned him the reputation as America's greatest sculptor by the time he was killed in an auto crash in 1965. His masterpiece is "Australia" (1951), a vigorously-outlined 9 1/2-foot wide flying creature that towers above its creator in the photograph he took of them both. It also towers above the entrance to "David Smith: A Centennial," a retrospective exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the artist's birth and organized by Carmen Giménez, with nearly 120 sculptures and more than 50 paintings and drawings, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York until May 14, 2006.