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Antoni "Tony" Milkowski was born October 7, 1935 in Evanston, Illinois. When he was two years old, the family moved to New York City. He attended Kenyon College where he received a degree in biology in 1957. For a time, he considered pursuing a career in medicine, taking additional science courses at Columbia University. Instead, in 1958, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Officers Candidate Program. While stationed in San Diego, California he took drawing and art history courses at the University of California, Berkeley extension program.
Discharged from the Marine Corps in 1961, Milkowski returned to New York and worked for a time as a recreation leader for the NYC Parks Department. The following year, he enrolled in an M.A. program at Hunter College. He worked on and off in the Queens parks during this time and also taught at the Lost Battalion Hall Recreation Center.
In 1963, while at Hunter College, Milkowski began studying with Tony Smith (sculptor), Ad Reinhardt, Michael Ponce de Leon, George Sugarman and Eugene Goossen. His interactions with these artists, in addition to his meeting David Smith (sculptor), cemented his desire to pursue sculpture.
It was in 1964-1965, while a Fulbright Scholar in Poland (where he also taught at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw), that Milkowski was invited to participate in the Biennial of Forms in Space, where he created his first major large-scale public work entitled "Poland Column". During this period, he began to develop his aesthetic of merging geometry and repetition, mainly in modular units and generally in steel. Over the years, he refined his methods and became interested in the concept of negative space and of the three-dimensional form in space.
The sculpture Salem No. 7, from 1968, exemplifies these ideas. The piece consists of seven rectangular prisms (34" x 34" x 48" each) and has a total size of 4' high x 28' long x 4' deep. The massive scale is offset by its expansive and open surroundings. Additionally, the contrast between the manmade, cold material and the lushness of the landscape surrounding it create the type of contrast that Milkowski often sought in his work. When observing Seven up close, it becomes apparent that the artist used unfinished edges which brings to mind drawn edges one might see in painting. When viewing the piece from afar and from different angles, however, the user has the opportunity to see an ever-shifting work. In high light or low light, from back or front, in winter or summer, the viewer is privy to seeing something new with each successive viewing.
After retiring from Hunter College, where he taught from 1966 to 1998, he lived and continued creating art in East Chatham, New York. He died sometime after 2001.
Milkowski's works can be found in the collections of the Museum of Art in New Orleans, the City of New York, the Hofstra University Museum and the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.
- Hunter College[dead link]
- Hofstra University Outdoor Sculpture Park Retrieved March 2015.
- New York Times: Art in Review Antoni Milkowski Retrieved March 2015.
- Observer Antoni Milkowski[dead link]
- NYC Parks Belleview South Park Retrieved March 2015.