Sculptor's Early Drawings Surprise in Menil Show

Untitled, 1954, Tony Smith
Untitled, 1954, Tony Smith
Cathy Carver

Tony Smith's geometric steel sculptures are included in pretty much every modern art survey text - his drawings, not so much. And that's a shame, because they're pretty amazing. "Tony Smith: Drawings" is a little gem of a show curated by Bernice Rose, chief curator of the Menil Drawing Institute and Study Center, and focusing on work executed between 1953 and 1955, early in Smith's artistic career.

In charcoal or colored pastel on brown paper, the drawings have abstract forms with a biomorphic vibe and sense of sculptural solidity. In a number of them, circular shapes cluster like molecules or morph and divide like microorganisms. The biggest surprise, for those familiar with the artist's monochromatic 3-D work, is Smith's masterful use of vibrant color. It's a 50-year-old palette that feels surprisingly contemporary.

(Through April 3. The Menil Collection, 1515 Sul Ross, 713-525-9400.)

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The Menil Collection

1533 Sul Ross
Houston, TX 77006


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