Tony Smith. Moondog. 1964 (fabricated 1998)

Tony Smith Moondog 1964 (fabricated 1998)

  • Not on view

Moondog is formed out of geometric modules—a combination of tetrahedrons and elongated octahedrons, joined through their facing planes. Rare in the natural environment, regular geometries are commonly taken as signs of human reason, but they do exist in nature, as Smith well knew; he studied the growth of crystals, and once based an architectural design on the hexagons of the honeycomb. Rational as his structures are, they follow organic principles. Like the Minimalist artists who emerged alongside him in the early 1960s, Smith favored geometric shapes and impersonal surfaces, and was alert to the artwork's exchange with the space around it; but he was actually a contemporary of the Abstract Expressionists, and unlike the Minimalists he worked intuitively. "All my sculpture," he said, "is on the edge of dreams."

Despite its self-evident logic, Moondog tricks the eye. Symmetrical and upright from some angles, from others it leans to one side, and its interlocking planar patterns seem to twist and shift as the viewer moves. The form was inspired by a photograph of a little jade house, and Smith interpreted it variously as a human pelvis and a Korean garden lantern. The title came from Joan Miró's painting Dog Barking at the Moon (1926) and from the New York street poet "Moondog," who wore a Viking-like helmet that reminded Smith of the sculpture.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 285.
Painted aluminum
17' 1 1/4" x 15' 8 1/2" x 13' 7 1/4" (521.3 x 478.8 x 414.7 cm)
Gift of Agnes Gund, Helen Acheson Bequest (by exchange), and Thomas W. Weisel Fund
Object number
© 2023 Estate of Tony Smith / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture

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