Small Town, Big Sculpture
For a town of only 17,000, South Orange has a surprisingly rich tradition in the arts, including public art. Visitors and residents will want to view TAU, a monumental sculpture by South Orange native Tony Smith, in Meadowland Park. Located near the corner of Ridgewood Road and Mead Street, TAU is owned by The Village of South Orange and is viewable at all times at no cost.

TAU in Spring. Photo by Nancy Heins-Glaser

Tau sculpture in the Spring
Tau (1961 - 62)
Fabricated 2005, Installed in Meadowland Park 2008 Black painted steel, 14 feet by 21 feet by 12 feet, a gift of Jane Smith to the Village of South Orange.

TAU is representative of Tony Smith’s bold, geometric work from the 1960s. The original model for the sculpture was created using small cardboard tetrahedrons (four-sided triangles or pyramids) that were taped together and later enlarged and plated in steel.

TAU has an organic, architectural presence in its natural surroundings. Notice how the geometric shapes and angles, and even the color of the sculpture, change depending on the season, the time of day, and where you are standing
South Orange native Tony Smith was one of the most influential sculptors of the twentieth century. He began painting in the 1930s, then trained as an architectural designer in the Chicago offices of Frank Lloyd Wright.

During the 40s and 50s, Smith continued to paint, aligning himself with the Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko.

Tony Smith in 1966, with plywood mock-ups that often populated the backyard of the family home on Stanley Road in South Orange.

Tony Smith in 1966
But it was sculpture, which he turned to in the early 1960s, that catapulted Smith to international fame. In the mid-sixties he appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine under the title “Master of the Momumentalists.” In 1998, The Museum of Modern Art in New York held a retrospective of his work. Smith was born into a third generation South Orange family. His grandfather, Anthony Peter Smith, founded a waterworks company in East Orange. His mother’s family owned a boiler factory in Newark.

In 1955, Smith and his wife Jane settled into the original family home on Stanley Road in the Montrose section of town, where they raised their daughters Kiki, Seton, and Beatrice. Smith lived and worked there, often building plywood mock-ups of sculptures in his back yard, until his death in 1980.

Meadowland Park’s TAU by Tony Smith is owned by the Village of South Orange and its residents. The installation was made possible by the generous support of Jane Smith, The Village of South Orange, as well as individual donors through The Pierro Foundation. Fundraising efforts for maintenance and improvement of the sculpture and site, as well as educational programming, are ongoing. For more information about Tony Smith and TAU, visit his website.