Roland David Smith (March 9, 1906 – May 23, 1965) was an influential and innovative American abstract expressionist sculptor and painter, widely known for creating large steel abstract geometric sculptures.
Born in Decatur, Indiana, Smith initially pursued painting, receiving training at the Art Students League in New York from 1926 to 1930. However, his artistic journey took a transformative turn in the early 1930s when he shifted his focus to sculpture.
In the early phase of his career, he crafted welded metal constructions that incorporated industrial objects, foreshadowing later developments in sculpture.
During the 1940s and 1950s, his work shifted to more personal, landscape-inspired sculptures. These works possessed a delicate linear quality, akin to drawing in metal, and echoed the aesthetics of contemporary painting. Notably, Smith cultivated strong friendships with renowned Abstract Expressionist painters, including Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell, illustrating the interplay between different art forms during this period.
By the late 1950s, his sculptures started to assume monumental proportions. Using overlapping geometric plates of highly polished steel, his works developed a reductive and geometric aesthetic. These massive pieces of the 1960s are considered precursors to the minimal "primary structures" that emerged later in the decade, further exemplifying Smith's forward-thinking approach to sculpture.