Robert Smithson (American, 19381973)
Photostat and plastic overlay with wax pencil; 18 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. (47 x 34.3 cm)
Purchase, Pat and John Rosenwald Gift, 2001 (2001.293)
© Estate of Robert Smithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
One of the most important American artists of the second half of the last century, Smithson is best known for Spiral Jetty (1970)a 1,500-foot sculpture of mud, salt, and rock coiling into Utah's Great Salt Lake. Equally at home in sculpture, photography, film, and writing, Smithson simultaneously expanded our notion of art and used that expanded field to reinvigorate the great subjects, among them landscape, myth, history, and the course of civilizations.
In the two years before his sudden death, Smithson planned various land-reclamation projects to make a new form of public art from devastated industrial sites. Here he envisioned an earthwork that would have dwarfed even Spiral Jetty. In the largest open-pit copper mine in the world, Smithson proposed the construction of a huge revolving disk at the pit's base, from which to survey nature's gradual and inevitable reclamation of man's invasive enterprisea primary theme of the picturesque tradition with which the artist was engaged.