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.)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1992
Not on view
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.
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"
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.