Tony Smith: Snake is Out

About the Exhibition

Tony Smith (1912-1980, b. South Orange, NJ) conceived of Snake is Out in 1962 as an edition of three. Two of the pieces were realized in steel in 1970, and are now located in the Albany Mall in the State’s capital and in the collection of John and Dominique de Menil in Houston, Texas. This sculpture, the last of the edition, has not been publicly exhibited. Made of welded steel and painted black, it measures 15’ x 24’ x 18’ and weighs a total of 12,420 pounds.

From 1960 until his death in 1980, Tony Smith developed a sculptural program based on standard tetra and octahedral modules. His background in architecture led him to use mass as an enclosure for space; his body of work, for instance, has been described as a “continuous, three dimensional space lattice.” Characteristically horizontal and made of solid materials, his sculptures, far from suggesting frailty, convey an element of the heroic. Smith often spoke of his dislike of fragmentation, “of busyness and disturbing overlays of speed and noise.” “I have always admired the very simple, very authoritative, very enduring things,” he said in a 1971 interview, “there is very little in contemporary life that we think of as continuous, in terms of substantial, sort of 19th century values.” While Smith’s work is consummately modern, and demands a modern sensibility, it emanates from and speaks of a deep awareness of historical continuities.



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