ECOARTPEDIA 2012-2013 EXHIBITION: "A Century in Search of the Artist"/"Un Siglo en la Busqueda del Artista"
  • WINTER 2012-2013 ISSUE

    ECOARTPEDIA 2013-2014 EXHIBITION: "The Artist in Search of a Century"/"El Artista en la Busqueda del Siglo"
  • Ready_GO 2014

  • Robert Smithson/Spiral Jetty Video 2

    "Actually it is the mistakes we make that result in something, art against itself is a good possibility, an art that always returns to essential contradiction" Robert Smithson, 1969

    Excerpts from the INTRODUCTION: READING ROBERT SMITHSON by Jack Flam(Published in 1996)

    "In fact, Smithson seems to embody a number of contradictory and even opposing tendencies within modernist art as a whole. On the one hand he is directly within the artistic lineage of
  • Marcel Duchamp in his emphasis upon the intangible and the ambiguous and in his insistence on breaking down categories and expanding boundaries of art and its practice."

    "Reading Smithson encourages you to reconsider a number of things that you might be inclined to take for granted, including the problem of how questions of artistic unity may be settled, or left unsettled....As his writings in particular make clear, Smithson revels in contradiction and paradox."

    "One of the most striking aspects of Smithson's work as a whole is the way in which he uses a strongly anti-romantic, anti-sublime stance to create, paradoxically, what seems to be a romantic evocation of the sublime."

    "Smithson's ambition was not only to reach outside of the studio or museum space, as had Duchamp, for example, but also to create a new kind of continuity between the very notion of "inside" and "outside". This usually involved extreme contrasts, as between the immediate present and the most remote geological past, or between the enormity of the earth itself and the significance that can be contained by a small section of it, as in one of his Non-Sites."

    "In contrast to the humanistic and organic, his writings and images posit the notion of the 'crystalline,' a glacial and impersonal concept that disdain viewing existence from a single portion of time and space."

    "Time, moreover, is crucial to the whole notion of entropy that Smithson began to elaborate in his earliest published writings and which emerged as one of the overriding concerns of both his art and his writings. It is in a sense the matrix that holds together the whole diverse body of his work--words and images, philosophical concerns and secularized remnants of religion, even his political and social engagements."


    Born and raised in New Jersey, Robert Smithson (1938-1973) moved to Manhattan in 1957. Smithson produced sculpture, drawings, photographs, films, and paintings in addition to the publication of "The Writings of Robert Smithson," edited by wis wife, Nancy Holt in 1979. Robert Smithson died at the age of 35 in a plane accident while working on Amarillo Ramp(1973)in Amarillo, Texas.

    "Smithson read widely and used that reading to create a style of criticism that is unique and deeply personal. "One must remember" he says "that writing on art replaces presence by absence by substituting the abstraction of language for the real thing. "His own vivid and very beautiful prose often provides some equivalent for that presence." David Carrier, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism


    The concept for Floating Island was developed by Robert Smithson in 1970 while he was living in Greenwich Village, two blocks from the Hudson River and although attempts were made during his lifetime to realize it, they were unsuccessful. He made a drawing documenting a site-specific public work that he proposed for New York City in which a tugboat would tow a barge, planted with vegetation around the island of Manhattan. An homage to Frederick Law Olmsted's design of Central Park, Floating Island offers a displacement of the part-itself a man-made creation--from its natural habitat

    The same year, Smithson created his best-known work, the earthwork SPIRAL JETTY at Utah's Great Salt Lake.

    OCTOBER 2005

    FLOATING ISLAND TO TRAVEL AROUND MANHATTAN ISLAND BY ROBERT SMITHSON...Watch the video of the construction and realization of Smithson's
  • Floating Island at Staten Island barge yard presented by Minetta Brook and Whitney Museum of Art/ARTFORUM/2005

  • Robert Smithson Homepage


    Excerpt from Michael Kimmelman's review of "Spiral Jetty" of Robert Smithson/New York Times Magazine/October 13, 2002

    OUT OF THE DEEP/October 13, 2012

    After spending 30 years submerged in murky water, "Spiral Jetty," Robert Smithson's great earthwork, has reappeared.

    The most famous work of American art that almost nobody has ever seen in the flesh is Robert Smithson's "Spiral Jetty": 6,650 tons of black basalt and earth in the shape of a gigantic coil, 1,500 feet long, projecting into the remote shallows of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, where the water is rose red from algae.

    The sculpture became an icon immediately after Smithson finished it in 1970. He made a film about it, enhancing the myth: trucks and loaders moving rocks like dinosaurs lumbering across a prehistoric panorama; the modern artist as primordial designer.

    Smithson anticipated that the lake would rise and fall, the residue of salt crystals causing the black rocks to glisten white whenever the water level dropped. But he miscalculated. "Spiral Jetty" was visible for about two years, then became submerged and stayed that way except for a few brief reappearances.

    With the drought in the West, however, the water in the lake has dropped to its lowest level in many years, and so the jetty has emerged, a brackish Brigadoon.

    The movement dubbed Earth art brought 1960's Minimalism out of the art gallery and into the American West, literally, on a scale to match the landscape. Smithson, erudite and articulate, was one of its conspicuous spokesmen until he died, at 35, in a plane crash in 1973, while planning another earthwork in Texas. He embraced the idea of entropy, accepting that his sculptures would change with the cycles of nature and the elements. His allusions were cosmological, postindustrial and primitive--to ancient civilizations and geological forms.

    And they were implicitly spiritual: existing far away from everything else, earthworks required pilgrimages. The trip to see them became integral to the art.

    "Spiral Jetty," now watched over by the DIA Art Foundation, is about as remote as a sculpture can be within the contiguous United States. When Smithson found the site, the nearby shoreline was littered by an old pier, a couple of decaying prospectors' shacks and a few small, rusty oil rigs, to which he was not aesthetically averse. Those old shacks and rigs are mostly gone, leaving just dry desert and rocky nothingness until the nearest sign of civilization, 16 miles away, the Golden Spike Monument, where the east and west ends of the transcontinental railroad met up in 1869. To drive from the monument to the jetty is a long, bumpy ride on unmarked dirt and gravel roads through a wide valley that spills down to the lake. A small but steady flow of hopeful devotees make the trek each year, supplied at the monument with a crude map, a stiff warning to bring water and gas and instructions to let park rangers know if the sculpture is visible.

    Late this summer, a visitor announced that it was. Beyond a stretch of sagebrush and driftwood, boulders encrusted white with salt could suddenly be seen poking up from the lake to the far edge of the spiral, where the water fades toward pink. From the shore, its base was visible beneath the waves.

    The best-known view has always been from the air: looked down on, it is like a watery Romantic ruin, a line in the land, a snail shell or whirlpool, improbably huge and elegant, its stones lapped by waves. Smithson first conceived it as less of a coil. His wife, the artist Nancy Holt, remembers him wading in hip-high boots, his face crusted with salt, staking the shape out with posts and string, then clambering up to look at it from a rise on the shore.

    The galactic metaphor was obvious. Smithson admired the science fiction of J.G. Ballard. The red water vaguely evokes a Martian sea. Smithson wrote that the jetty jutting from the shore was "the edge of the sun, a boiling curve, an explosion rising into a fiery prominence.

    Now it is a sculpture and tourist attraction for the art cognoscenti once again, risen like a modern Atlantis.

    Related LINKS:

  • ECOART  CALENDARNANCY HOLT (1938-2014)"Events" eBookplates 2021/Ecological Art Historical View
    Ready_GO 2014 The Artist in Search of a CenturyProbing the Earth: Contemporary Land Projects/Book Huggers August 2014 Selection Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty Video
    "ECOART MOBILES" ShowsECOARTPEDIA SPRING 2014"Ready_GO Expressionism"/Winter 2013/2014 ISSUE
    Soren Dahlgaard 2013 Venice BiennaleEcological Video ART What's New ECOVIDEONETECOLOGICAL ART REVIEW/STATEMENTS 2013
    FIFTH SEASON MAGAZINE/My RecommendationsComplexity Art/Ecological Art REVIEW SUMMER 2013 IssueLand ART/Environmental ART/Earth Art/ECO-ART
    EARTHWORKS/EARTH ART Exhibit  2008/Royal Botanical Gardens, Ontario, CanadaMarcel Duchamp (1887-1968) Ecological Art ProcessesTributes  1913-2013
    BOOK ART EVENTS 2012ECOARTPEDIA 2012/2013/2014/2015/2016/2017 CENTENNIAL/TRIBUTES/LINKSConceptual ART - Since the early 20th Century
    ECOART 2011 Exhibition-PORI  ART MUSEUMAFFINITY Newsletter/Ecological Arts Issues 1997-2023FALL 2012 ISSUE-Ecological Art REVIEW/2012 Edition
    Ideology of Time/Notes by Nohra Corredor JUNE 2012 - 2023Process of Approximation/Ecological Art REVIEW 2012 Issue"Paradoxical Illuminations" Kaleidoscopic/ ECOARTSplus/COMBINED ART 2012 Exhibition
    John Cage-A Centennial TributeSOUND MATRIX and Ecological Art/SOUND ART 2013 SHOWSound ART/FIFTH SEASON MAGAZINE/Spring2012-2013 ISSUE
    Public ART/G2PA/FIFTH SEASON MAGAZINE/ 2010 Special EditionG2PA-Geographic Positioning PUBLIC  ARTEARTH  DAY 1970-2010 EXHIBITION/PUBLIC ART/G2PA
    ECOARTNET/ BEST OF THE WEB NOMINEE  Museums and the Web Awards 2006Museums and the Web2011 UPDATEBOOKHUGGERS
    BOOKENDS-December 2011 Selection-Homage to John F. CepranoJohn F. Ceprano  BOOKENDS/SELECTIONSEcological  Art  Review/Video-art BOOKS
    Ecological Art REVIEW Press Release/July 2006ECOLOGICAL ART REVIEW Special EditionEcological Art TV
    ECOARTPEDIA Digital Ecological Art Library