Tony Smith at Timothy Taylor Gallery
Perhaps one of the lesser known contributors to the monumental shifts in art in the middle of the 20th century, Tony Smith (1912-1980) was an influence on and an influenced by abstract expressionism, conceptualism and even land art. Timothy Taylor Gallery presents a selection of early works of the American artist and architect.
The decision to evenly distribute the pieces in the gallery space was an intelligent one. Each is allowed to breath and have its own space to play graphically against the white walls and soft grey of the floor. The paintings converse with the sculptures in the long views of the gallery, highlighting Smith’s strong visual language and its clear development from canvas to sculptural mode.
The four paintings, created between 1956 and 1960, are clear predecessors to the sculptures. Softer in nature and more ambiguous in their articulation of space, there is a human suppleness in the brushwork that has been abandoned in hard bronze casting of Smith’s later work. The black patina floor sculptures that occupy the room are bold interruptions, with their strong, uncompromising form and often repetitious structure. With optically illusive play, they ask the brain to make patterns and unpick their apparently fused polyhedron make-up. Despite their immaculate and perhaps cold materiality they are suggestive of fluidity, balance and even insect-like figuration.
The sculptures are the more compelling pieces. It would be easy to draw comparisons with Smith’s paintings to the work of Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman, however Smith’s don’t have the grandness in scale of his contemporaries. That fact combined with his muddied colour palette and oscillation between fluid cowhide shapes and straighter lines they aren’t as certain as the later sculptures. The superiority of the later three-dimensional work is conceivable, as they clearly owe much of their spatial traits to the paintings. Originating from cardboard and wooden maquettes the scale of the cast bronze presented in this gallery space are a snip of that of his colossal later forms, but are clearly the seeds of the striking work that Smith would go on to create.
Photos: Adam Bennett
Tony Smith, Sculpture and Painting is at Timothy Taylor Gallery until 4th October 2014, for further information visit here.