Tony Smith (American, 1912–1980) was a Minimalist sculptor, architect, and painter known for his large-scale modular sculptural works. After studying architecture at the New Bauhaus in Chicago with László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895–1946), György Kepes (American/Hungarian, 1906–2001), and Alexander Archipenko (Ukrainian, 1887–1964), Smith worked for Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959) as an office clerk, before establishing his own architectural practice. Smith became friends with the American Abstract Expressionist artists Barnett Newman (1905–1970), Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), and Mark Rothko (1903–1970), and in the 1960s turned to sculpture. One of Smith’s early works, Die (1962), is a black box with dimensions determined by the size of the human body with arms and legs outstretched, suggesting that the work is neither monument nor object. Smith also completed several public commissions, including Light Up (1971), a bright yellow steel structure, and Smug (1973), a sculpture made of plywood triangles connected by hinges. Rather than rejecting the associative possibility of sculpture like other Minimalists, Smith suggested that even his most austere geometric work could connect with the natural world. Amaryllis (1965), a tetrahedron made of black steel, was initially inspired by the shape of the eponymous plant. Smith’s work is included in several international collections, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Tate Gallery in London. A major retrospective of his work was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1998.

Timeline

1912
Born in South Orange, New Jersey
1934–1936
Art Students League, New York
1937–1938
Architecture Course at Bauhaus School Chicago
1980
Died in New York

Exhibitions

Literature

Falconer, Morgan, Tony Smith: Wall, Timothy Taylor Gallery, The Architects’ Journal, 30.9.04, p.49
Anderson, Hephzibah, Tony Smith: Wall, Timothy Taylor Gallery, Metro Life, Evening Standard, 10.9.04
Coomer, Martin, Tony Smith, Timothy Taylor Gallery, Time Out, Sept 22-29, 2004