For Marjorie

Tony Smith


New House Dormitory
(Bldg. W71), west campus

Smith’s sculpture reflects a strong interest in mathematical and modular principles of construction absorbed during his architectural career and association with Frank Lloyd Wright. Smith often organized his sculptures by tetrahedral or octahedral modules, either whole or sliced. Smith has remarked that MIT’s For Marjorie would fit within a tetrahedron.

Such sculptures are more rational than they at first appear, being comprehensible only part by part due to their enormous size and elusive geometry. Although mathematical and modular, For Marjorie is not symmetrical and initially seems to lack a regular order. Because the basic modular units, whether whole, sliced, or combined, have so many axes, the sculptural forms move in unexpected ways. They turn back on themselves to create dynamic tensions and articulate gestural movements through space. The huge forms produce a powerful sense of presence and convey density, weight and strength. Those which rise off the ground, like For Marjorie, embrace, frame, and dynamically inflect space; they carve out and possess their environmental territory. Smith found his forms difficult to draw and so worked directly in small, modular three-dimensional sketches in cardboard. These were usually translated into full-size mock-ups in painted plywood and then industrially fabricated in steel. For Marjorie was made in plywood in 1961 but was not fabricated in steel until fifteen years later for its installation at MIT in 1977. It was named by Smith for Marjorie Iseman, sister of the painter Helen Frankenthaler and a close family friend.

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Tony Smith


1961 (fabricated 1977)




Painted steel


216 in. (548.64 cm)


Purchased with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds