Stan Smokler: Steel in Flux

Ultimately, I strive to breathe new life into discarded material to create forms which deliberately deny their past history in order to serve a new formal purpose. – Stan Smokler

Stan Smokler’s celebrated, steel sculptures continue the trajectory of modernist abstraction. Rather than sculpting an easily recognizable object from stone or wood, Smokler assembles found items, creating expressive, geometric works of art. The constructed environment and industrial landscape provide his materials. Smokler reclaims metal detritus—steel cogs, springs, pipes, beams, chains—and models them into evocative forms. The sculptures are hewn from industry, forged from the discarded. A keen observer of volume and space, Smokler invites us to consider the structures around us—the scaffolding that shelters us or bridges a river.

Making sculpture for me is an ongoing exploration of how material affects the space it occupies. – Stan Smokler

imageLeft to right: Circle of Lines, 2011. Stan Smokler (born 1944). Steel, 99 × 98 × 27 inches. Delaware Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2016. © Stan Smokler. Photograph by Carson Zullinger. | Alcazar, 1996. Stan Smokler (born 1944). Steel, 20 x 17 x 6 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Stan Smokler. Photograph by Terry Roberts.

Smokler’s resulting works of art span a range of references from the whimsical to the celestial. The artist pairs his sculpture with meaningful and inventive titles that indicate a person, an animal, a particular place, or another aspect of the built or natural world. Seemingly flat, steel parts are sculpted to suggest an Islamic castle (Alcazar, 1996) or the folly of a 16th-century Dutch painting (Hieronymus Bosch: Garden of Earthly Delights, 2015). Smokler’s perhaps unexpected incorporation of red into his later sculptures creates an additional layer of depth, realizing his continual goal of moving from “flatness to roundness.”

imageLeft to right: Hieronymus Bosch: Garden of Earthly Delights, 2015. Stan Smokler (born 1944). Welded steel assemblage with found and fabricated objects, bronze, and paint, 49 × 29 × 28 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Stan Smokler. Photograph by Terry Roberts. | Fibonacci, 2013. Stan Smokler (born 1944). Steel and paint, 20 x 19 x 13 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Stan Smokler. Photograph by Terry Roberts.

The Distinguished Artist Exhibition, Stan Smokler: Steel in Flux, offers visitors a broad perspective of Smokler’s creativity in varying materials and scale. The show includes work from the late 1970s through 2020 along with several of the artist’s charcoal and pastel drawings of his completed sculptures, showcasing the breadth of his experimentation in form and metal.

Smokler’s embrace and elevation of discarded materials points toward a generous and open personality, of which many other artists have spoken. In addition to nurturing generations of art students while teaching at the Delaware College of Art and Design from 1998 until his retirement in 2016, Smokler shared his love and knowledge for steel in a unique way. The artist greatly valued his 1985 participation in Sir Anthony Caro’s Triangle Artists’ Workshop in upstate New York. The opportunity to study with sculptor Caro was an invaluable experience, and Smokler pledged to offer that to his community.

imageLeft to right: Untitled drawing, 1997. Stan Smoker (born 1944). Charcoal on paper, 24 x 18 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Stan Smokler. Photograph by Carson Zullinger. | Hemisphere, 2009. Stan Smokler (born 1944). Steel, 37 x 38 x 18 inches. © Stan Smokler. Photograph by Terry Roberts.

In 2004, Smokler established his Marshall Bridge Workshop. The Workshop is an immersive training opportunity for artists of all levels interested in working with welded steel. Smokler has been praised for his supportive approach to teaching that nurtures artists at various stages in their careers. With his commitment to exploring the possibilities of steel and mentoring students, Stan Smokler has guided the trajectory of contemporary abstract sculpture.

Margaret Winslow,
Curator of Contemporary Art

Stan Smokler: Steel in Flux opens June 25 in the Delaware Art Museum galleries and outside in the Copeland Sculpture Garden. Members are invited to an Exhibition Party on Friday evening, July 8. Celebrate with us—become a member today.

Top: Eleanor, 1994. Stan Smokler (born 1944). Steel, 35 x 36 x 10 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Stan Smokler. Photograph by Terry Roberts.