At Matthew Marks, Tony Smith Channels Pollock

THE DAILY PIC: In 1961, AbEx drips were still high-cred.


THE DAILY PIC: I spotted this 1961 Tetrahedron by Tony Smith at Matthew Marks gallery in New York. It has the geometry of Smith’s famous hard-edged sculptures, which he’d already begun by this time, but here he’s rendered his trademark shapes in the gloopy, emotive, intuitive language of Abstract Expressionism.

That tension with AbEx reminds me of where Warhol was at the same time (of course I can’t help mentioning my hero): He was trying to move forward into crisp new territory, while still held in the grip of the drips of Jackson Pollock – who was a pal of Smith’s, and once made sculptures beside him.

It’s worth remembering that AbEx was just a bit more than a decade old at the time, however passé we imagine it seeming by 1960. There was still plenty of resistance to Pollock and his crew as unbearably novel, as well as admiration for them as the hot new thing. As late as 1958, a conservative teacher of Warhol’s, barely older than him, still had “no truck” with “the Abstract Expressionists who have monopolized modern art.”

It’s hard to believe how quickly artistic movements once moved through our culture: Analytic Cubism gets less that five years, AbEx gets about ten, Pop barely lives for seven. Whereas most of today’s art could have have been made two decades ago; a lot of it would have fit fine in the 1970s or ‘80s. (Photo by Lucy Hogg)

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