Tony Smith

American, 1912–1980

Tony Smith’s monumental sculptures are among Minimalism’s most iconic forms. The artist developed his style by exploring issues of scale, material, and the geometry of nature in studio prototypes for fabricated sculptures. The Minimalist works he created, which he called “interruptions in an otherwise unbroken flow of space”, were included in the genre-defining “Primary Structures” exhibition of 1966. 

Before turning to sculpture in the 1950s, Smith studied at the Art Students League under George Grosz and Vaclav Vytlacil and worked with architect Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago. In New York, he became friends with leading Abstract ExpressionistsBarnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still, who encouraged each other to push the limits of abstraction; Smith’s work, however, was more closely aligned with a younger generation of artists, including Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, and Donald Judd, who would define American art in the coming decades.

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