Tony Smith

AMERICAN, 1912–1980

Bearing Tony Smith’s signature black finish, Source is part of a large body of work the artist created during the last two decades of his life. Multifaceted and modular, it presents shape-shifting surprises when viewed from different points. Smith began his sculptures by creating cardboard and plywood models, a practice he developed out of necessity while recuperating from a car accident. In the 1960s Smith was among the first artists to have sculpture made by industrial fabricators. He explored various configurations of basic geometric shapes, such as the cube, rhomboid, and tetrahedron, using them as building blocks for his large-scale forms. He freely swapped and merged such shapes between his works, and indeed Source evolved from other sculptures.

Smith’s first career was in architecture, and his sculptures reflect this early training. He saw them in relation to the spaces they inhabit, referring to them as “presences” and “an integral part of a unified space, rather than … completely self-contained objects.” He preferred working with straight sides to spheres, he said, because cubes and rectangles are the building blocks of modern construction. “I’m civic minded,” he noted. “Flat sides allow that things exist outside as well as inside…. You can move around a cube, get in the shadow, see the planes; it’s a social form.”

Tony Smith
Source, 1967
Painted steel
11' x 29' 6" x 34'

Tony Smith
Source, 1967
Painted steel
11' x 29' 6" x 34'
Tony Smith Estate, courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery