Tony Smith (1912-1980) was an American sculptor who became known for his large, abstract steel sculptures in the 1960s. He played a leading role in the rise of the Minimalist Art movement.
Tony Smith studied architecture at the New Bauhaus in Chicago and painting at the Art Students League in New York. After graduating, he initially worked as a writer and architect, among others for Frank Lloyd Wright. However, he was dissatisfied with architecture, as this discipline did not allow him to realize his ideas of the body in space. Therefore, he finally turned to art at the end of the 1950s.
One of his sculptures (Free Ride, 1962) was presented at the Jewish Museum in New York City in 1966 in the groundbreaking and landmark exhibition “Primary Structures.” Other solo exhibitions followed.
Tony Smith was one of the first American sculptors to reduce his sculptures (he preferred the word “presences” for his works) to such an extent, coining a new language of abstraction. He always intuitively combined his minimalist sculptures, which consisted of interlocking geometric shapes. To do this, he often used black steel, which made his works so unique and eye-catching.
Smith’s works are informed by his wide-ranging interests that span the history of art and architecture, mathematics, science, and Asian philosophy. These multi-layered influences combine to create a complex meaning. He favored a degree of mystery in his artwork, inviting the viewer to take action on their own. He believed that the form of his objects had a special kinetic quality, making them interactive. His unique works fused visual impact with spatial and structural design. Although best known for his sculptures, he also explored the relationship between space, body, and geometry in minimalist paintings and drawings.
Smith died in 1980 at the age of 67, but his influence on the art scene is still felt. His work has been honored in numerous exhibitions and books, and his influence on Minimal Art causes it to still be considered a significant art movement today.
I’m not aware of how light and shadow falls on my pieces. I’m just aware of basic form. I’m interested in the thing, not in the effects — pyramids are only geometry, not an effect.Tony Smith via artforum
Further Reading / Resources