Bingham Copper Mining Pit—Utah / Reclamation Project

Artist: Robert Smithson (American, Passaic, New Jersey 1938–1973 Amarillo, Texas)

Date: 1973

Medium: Photostat and plastic overlay with wax pencil

Dimensions: 47 x 34.3 cm (18 1/2 x 13 1/2 in.)

Classifications: Photographs, Drawings

Credit Line: Purchase, Pat and John Rosenwald Gift, 2001

Accession Number: 2001.293


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 enterprise-a primary theme of the picturesque tradition with which the artist was engaged.