The eight-book collaboration will provide a more nuanced and historically rich lens through which Tony Smith’s works and archive may be read today and by future generations
Tony Smith Foundation and the MIT Press are pleased to announce their collaboration to publish eight books over the next six years on the work and legacy of artist Tony Smith (1912–1980).
Comprising the Tony Smith Catalogue Raisonné Project, these fully illustrated volumes will serve as comprehensive documentation of the depth and complexity of the American artist’s career while simultaneously positioning his oeuvre in dialogue with contemporary discourses on art and culture.
About the Project
The Tony Smith Catalogue Raisonné, a four-volume publication, will put forth the comprehensive record of the artist’s bodies of work: sculpture, architecture, painting, and drawing. These four books will provide objective foundations for future study, interpretation, and analysis of the artist’s work and legacy. Additionally, Against Reason: Tony Smith and Other Modernisms, a four-book companion series, is conceived of as integrated collections of essays and commentary offering productive tension between canonical works by Smith and the views of leading scholars and artists. In many cases, these contributors will challenge ingrained ideologies on art, providing insights and renewed perspectives on parallel modernisms and other histories simultaneous to and within the larger context surrounding Tony Smith, his era and work, and beyond.
Published alongside the four volumes of the Smith catalogue raisonné, each book in the Against Reason series will similarly focus on the same overall body of work: sculpture, architecture, painting, and drawing. These companion books will feature commissioned essays, interviews, and visual contributions by practitioners working in a range of fields and disciplines, from mathematics and science to architecture, design, urban planning, literature, and visual art—all of which occupied Smith’s own wide-ranging practice.
The Against Reason series will appeal to readers interested in modern and contemporary art’s intersections with other disciplines since these books will offer counter art histories and alternative modernisms, revealing more expansive interpretations of the Smith legacy. This dialogue and tension between existing modernist history and contemporary art criticism will be attractive to many artists, educators, and arts professionals as society continues to grapple with systemic inequalities in institutional practices as well as entrenched narratives in the chronicling of art history.
Moreover, the project will seek to complicate and pluralize the concept of the catalogue raisonné itself, reconsidering the monolithic place this format traditionally holds in the writing of art history. The aim is to provide a more nuanced and historically rich lens through which the Tony Smith oeuvre and archive may be read today and by future generations. Primary audiences for the Tony Smith Catalogue Raisonné Project will be university, museum, and public libraries; curators and students; and art dealers, galleries, and collectors.
With its multifaceted form and scholarly approach, the eight-volume Tony Smith Catalogue Raisonné Project will push the boundaries of the typical, large-scale catalogue raisonné. It seeks to update and better reflect current methodologies for researching and writing modern and contemporary art histories. Through the perspectives of women, LGBTQ+ communities, and Black, Indigenous, and other peoples of color, the project offers an opportunity to look at societal and structural inequities that have come to define modernism and the writing of art history to date. In terms of design, the project’s compositional format will mirror the spirit of Tony Smith’s modular and generative modes of production.
The project’s first two books—Tony Smith Catalogue Raisonné: Sculpture and Against Reason: Tony Smith, Sculpture, and Other Modernisms—will be released in fall 2024, with seasonal releases thereafter for Architecture, Painting, and Drawing. The Tony Smith Catalogue Raisonné Project is directed by James Voorhies, Executive Director of the Tony Smith Foundation, New York, and designed by James Goggin and Shan James of Practice.
About Tony Smith
The American artist Tony Smith (b. 1912, South Orange, NJ – d. 1980, New York, NY) occupies an important place in the history of twentieth-century art and design. He is best known for his large-scale sculptures—inventive polygonal forms made of steel, most painted black—of the 1960s and ‘70s. Yet his intellectual and creative pursuits extended well beyond sculpture to encompass architecture, drawing, painting, and writing. Historically, he straddled two artistic generations. Engaged with the New York School scene, he shared the same preoccupations with abstraction as fellow artists Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman, and Jackson Pollock, while the aesthetics of Smith’s sculptures folded conveniently into the rapidly emerging discourse on Minimalism in the 1960s.
Still, neither category accurately or fully captures his practice and overall oeuvre. Smith is less reductive and more complex than the minimalist label would suggest and, in fact, aligns closer with Conceptualism than Minimalism. Ultimately, over his career, he blended the improvisational with the analytical, using geometry, mathematics, and science to push against the formal qualities of mediums and conventional expectations for artistic disciplines, and paradoxically complicating the modernist imperative to categorize. The fluid interconnectedness of his bodies of work has appealed to generations of artists who have cited Smith’s influence on their own work. Nevertheless, while Tony Smith’s sculpture has left an indelible impact on modern and contemporary art history, the breadth of his creative and intellectual output remains to be fully explored.
Tony Smith Foundation supports the visual arts by placing the work and legacy of the American artist and architect in dialogue with contemporary art and design. The foundation’s research programs seek to advance engagement with Smith’s wide-ranging interdisciplinary and intellectual pursuits by activating new perspectives, scholarship, publications, and interpretations of Smith’s creative practice and the modernist era in which it developed.
Established in 1962, the MIT Press is one of the largest and most distinguished university presses in the world and a leading publisher of books and journals at the intersection of science, technology, art, social science, and design. MIT Press books and journals are known for their intellectual daring, scholarly standards, interdisciplinary focus, and distinctive design.