Matthew Marks flexes its muscles as a big box space in Chelsea with the monumental show of minimalist sculptor Tony Smith’s Source. Tony Smith who passed away in 1980, was born on September 23, 1912 in South Orange New Jersey. At a young age Smith contracted tuberculosis and due to his weakened immune system, he became a “boy in a bubble” as his parents constructed an isolation ward in their backyard. With limited social activities, Smith created small models out of the boxes of medicine that were part of his daily regiment.
Mathew Marks which represents Smith’s estate wanted to do something monumental for the 100th anniversary of his birth. From the press release,
Source, 1967, is a monumental sculpture, which Tony Smith first exhibited at Documenta IV in Kassel, Germany in the summer of 1968. Fabricated in steel and weighing over 12,000 pounds, this work is among Smith’s most dynamic large-scale sculptures. The title refers to Gustave Courbet’s 1864 painting The Source of the Loue. Speaking about Source in 1971, Smith said, “It would take many lines to explain why I consider Courbet’s The Source of the Loue to be so uniquely related to Abstract Expressionist painting, but I do associate it with the work of my late friends. Anyhow, when I saw my sculpture, I thought of this great flood gushing from the rock face.” A key example of the painted black outdoor sculptures for which Smith is best known, this exhibition is the first time that Source is being shown in New York.
Interestingly, there happen to be two versions of Courbet’s The Source of the Loue both painted in 1864.
With the version from the National Gallery being a little more minimal and emphasizing to two large dark spaces, it seems to be a more plausable “source” of inspiration. However, the Met version does appear to emphasize the three dimensionality of the scene with the river running into the foreground in a similar fashion to the leg in the sculpture. Perhaps Smith’s sculpture should be renamed “Sources”.
Tony Smith Source 2012 September 7 – October 7 at Matthew Marks
Photos: Sujin Lee