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Barbara T. Smith Field Piece

Cirrus 1971


Exhibition Info Card 1971


Exhibition Mailer 1971


Field Piece, 1971 Essay by Douglas Roberts “All I want to do is break this glass and run through it to the fields of grass where all things are equal under the sun!” Barbara T. Smith conceived the idea for “Field Piece,” (1971) at her Eagle Rock studio in the mid 1960s making this declaration after being rejected for a show of her first series of black glass paintings. The glass she wanted to destroy was essentially a large cast-off window in a wooden frame found in an alley which she used to

overlay her new 5x4 foot paintings to understand how one might see the finished work. Because the paintings were largely black, when covered with the glass they became a reflection of the viewer and the world outside the painting. She found that this act of framing automatically organized the view one perceived within it. While each painting held some discrete unique configuration, the glazed effect denied access to the work except as a reflection of the (cont.)


Assembling and sanding the molds


(cont.) viewer’s immediate world. It proved too big a stretch for the juried show, and in frustration and selfarticulated defiance, Smith broke the glass and simultaneously thought of her daughter with the idea, “Julie, you will live forever!” passing through

her mind as she imagined a completed vision for “Field Piece.” Sweeping the shattered pieces into a black plexi-box and placing it at the base of the wooden frame remnant, the sculpture “Julie, you will live forever,” (1966) was the resulting by-


product of this initial rejection. The frustration exemplified her role as a woman making art in the 1960s dominated by men in a society that ever so slowly began to accept independent free-thinking women.

After her divorce in 1968, she began her revolutionary performance work for which she is best known, allowing her to take control of the depiction of her body against the typical and historical objectification of women by men. Soon after,


Smith commenced in creating her monumental field of grass sculpture revealed to her in that shattering experience. Over the next 36 months and consuming her time along with every resource both financial & human that she could muster, an army of volunteers, paid consultants, technicians, mechanical engineers, and her own personal inner strength, she built a larger-than-life sculptural installation. Part performance, part interactive environment, “Field Piece� is a non-hierarchical social construct of the very idea that all viewer-participants are equal. Smith became an expert in spraying, laying-up and casting fiberglass,

and with technical assistance, an early innovator of computer-based technology. Both through failed experiments and technical problem solving, Smith was finally able to bring a portion of her piece together at F-Space in Santa Ana — an artistrun gallery and laboratory. Here, she could make her final tests to account for all the working parts of the installation. In the spring of 1971, the large sculpture was brought to Cirrus Galler y on Manhatt an Place in Hollywood for its first, fully completed exhibition. The work consists of over 180 9-1/2 foot tall semi-flexible translucent tubular


fiberglass “blades” in various colors from clear to orange, pink, yellow and violet, each unique and standing upright on a 6 inch low-rise platform in a gridded layout of 20 x 24 square feet. The translucent blades lit from within are triggered by a participant walking over touch-sensitive ribbon switches hidden beneath the flooring

while creating an audible vibrating drone. After a week of around-theclock installation, ”Field Piece” opened as a special evening event where participants stripped nude to experience the work first-hand, allowing all to be equal in a dreamlike field of grass.

Computer hardware assembly


Installation/Assembly at Cirrus


Installation Fiberglass, light, sound, computer 1971


Installation Fiberglass, light, sound, computer 1971


Installation Fiberglass, light, sound, computer 1971


Barbara T. Smith and Jeff Speeth


Barbara T. Smith and Allan Kaprow


Ri Timberlake, Boris Sojka, Barbara T. Smith, and Jeff Speeth


Nude Opening Reception


Opening Reception 1971


Guerilla Capers in front of Cirrus


Studio and installation images courtesy of Barbara T. Smith, Boris Sojka, Dick Kilgroe, and Cirrus Gallery ‘Field Piece, 1971’ essay by Douglas Roberts Cover image courtesy of Jerry Muller and Orange County Illustrated (“The Gallery Scene”, May 1971) Layout and design by Nico Hernandez For more information visit www.cirrusgallery.com cirrus editions ltd © 2016


Cirrus 1971

cirrus editions ltd Š 2016

Barbara T. Smith: Field Piece  

A Cirrus publication of Field Piece, the 1971 exhibition featuring the work of Barbara T. Smith.

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