Die by Tony Smith


Who’s the artist? Tony Smith

What am I looking at? A steel sculpture with oiled finish

When was it made? 1968 during the Minimalism movement (60’s-70’s)

Where is it right, right now? It’s on view at the National Gallery of Art in DC


Ok… Why is that so important?

Tony Smith’s Die is the quintessential example of the minimalist art movement characterized by its simplistic form, aggressive title, and enormous size. Die, of course being the singular of “dice”, simultaneously makes reference to both the way in which it was made (die casting) and the act of dying (ooh, edgy; ahhh, universally experienced).

The massive dimensions and weight of the work give it a sense of domination within a room. For this reason, Smith referred to his sculptures as “presences” rather than just artworks.

This attention to language was unraveled by Anna Chave in her essay Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power. She thinks their artwork is made to intentionally impose their will upon the viewer. More about this when we cover another minimalist artist, Dan Flavin. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you feel like this work is imposing or not.

This sculpture is 6’x6’x6’ and made of pure steel, weighing approximately 500lbs. The size represents the average height of a male, according to a statement he gave to the Whitney, “six feet has a suggestion of being cooked. Six foot box. Six feet under.”



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