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The American Civil War: Shadows of Ourselves


Second Upside-Down Tree

Virginia Dwan (American)

Former Attribution:
Unknown (American)
Person in Photograph:
Robert Smithson (American, Passaic, New Jersey 1938–1973 Amarillo, Texas)
Gelatin silver print
19.2 x 19.2 cm. (7 9/16 x 7 9/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1992
Accession Number:
  • Description

    The animating spirit behind photography is time, and the medium’s vital role in preserving the ephemeral expanded in the 1960s to include the recording of a wide array of Conceptual gestures and strategies, such as the new sculptural practice known as "earthworks". A number of artists including Richard Long, Michael Heizer, and Robert Smithson created often large-scale, site-specific alterations or additions to the environment; in doing so, they deliberately moved away from the Modernist tradition of contemplative, self-referential sculpture (epitomized by Brancusi) that sat comfortably in galleries and living rooms, to works that were carved out of and commented on the post-industrial landscape. Perhaps the best-known of these works was the massive stone Spiral Jetty (1970) created by Robert Smithson (1938-73) in the Great Salt Lake in Utah.
    This photograph is of another, more ephemeral, work by Smithson, in which he upended a dead palm tree—now blooming its expired roots—on the shore at Sanibel Island, Florida.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Printed label affixed to print verso, UC: "dg// DWAN// GALLERY// 26 WEST 57th STREET// NEW YORK, N.Y. 10019"; typed on label: "ROBERT SMITHSON// UPSIDE DOWN TREE// Sanibel Island, Florida// 1969"

  • Provenance

    Adison Thompson

  • Notes

    This photograph was attributed to Virginia Dwan by Anne Kovach, curator of the Virginia Dwan Collection, New York, 8/21/97--see file. The "First Upside Down Tree" by Smithson was executed in Ithaca, New York.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History