Art: With the Help of Gas

David Smith's first sculpture was a mud lion which he patted together when he was five. At 45, he has put away childish things, makes abstract steel things with the help of an oxyacetylene torch and gas welding. The results, on view in a Manhattan gallery last week, struck one critic as being "about the most original, the most imaginative and most vital [sculpture] being done in the country today."

His art is as modern as his methods, and like most modern art, it draws heavily and unashamedly on arts of the distant past. Smith's sculptures can look like junk-shop equivalents of...

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