In 1957, after many years of training as a painter, David Jacobs joined the faculty at Ohio State University, where he was asked to supervise the craft workshop and teach classes in jewelry and metalwork. This new role expanded his skills and prompted a shift towards sculpture. Jacobs was soon visiting scrap yards in Columbus, Ohio and began welding found metal objects into intricate figurative sculptures. These human and animal forms are highly expressive and often humorous, yet the components always retain their identities as pipes, pitchforks, pans, and other ordinary objects. Anticipating his later sound sculptures, some of these early assemblages contain elements that either imply or create sound.
At the urging of David Smith, who had visited Columbus in 1959, Jacobs brought photographs of this work to New York in search of a gallery. His efforts led to a series of shows at the Barone Gallery (later renamed the Kornblee Gallery), the first of which opened in April 1961. The twenty-one assemblages in Jacobs’ New York debut were embraced by critics and curators. One sculpture entered the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, while another, Ursula (1959), was selected by William Seitz for “The Art of Assemblage”, a landmark exhibition that opened at the Museum of Modern Art in October 1961.