At Matthew Marks, Tony Smith Goes Heavy Metal

THE DAILY PIC: The great sculptor's ideas are given permanent form.


THE DAILY PIC: This is a photo of sculptures called Wall and  Playground, designed by Tony Smith in the mid-1960s and now on view, in more recent fabrications, at Matthew Marks Gallery in New York. In the days before the massive budgets of dealer-assisted artists such as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, even major figures such as Smith often had to make their pieces out of wood or even cardboard, in the hopes that they’d some day be realized in their “final” materials. I’m glad the works do now exist in durable form, but I also think there was an upside to their original, ephemeral construction. For one thing, it meant that the conceptual nature of the pieces stayed clear; their eventual fabrication in heavy metal remained nothing more than a conceit, a possibility, which balanced the danger of bombast that industrially-inspired work can fall into when it’s actually encountered in the world. (See the worst of late Serra.) Also, the cheapness and contingency of the original materials gave the sculptures the quality of a sketch, perpetually provisional, and that balanced the danger of the work coming off as ultra-deluxe lawn ornaments – Walls and Playgrounds, if you like, to grace the gardens of the superrich. (Photo by Lucy Hogg)

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