Robert Smithson (American, Passaic, New Jersey 1938–1973 Amarillo, Texas)
Fiberboard, polystyrene and alkyd paint
10 1/2 in. × 10 1/2 in. × 9 in. (26.7 × 26.7 × 22.9 cm)
Weight: 6 lb. (2.7 kg)
Gift of Barbara and Eugene Schwartz, 1981
On view at The Met Breuer on Floor 4
Smithson once described himself as the "keeper of derangement," and even early sculptures such as this one bear witness to his life-long desire to confound our sense of space. The stepped forms were created by stacking and then carving away sections of plastic panels—each half of the work is a mirror image of the other. Smithson rotated the piece ninety degrees and hung it on the wall, thereby generating a strange optical experience: as the square modules decrease in regular increments, they create the illusion of a plunging perspective line, with the vanishing point in the lower right corner. Perspective, however, is an effect usually confined to the flat surface of a painting: sculptures, which already exist in space, have no need for it. Making perspective "three dimensional," as Smithson once said, is therefore a logical absurdity.
Barbara and Eugene Schwartz, New York (until 1981; their gift to MMA)
New York. Dwan Gallery. "Scale Models & Drawings," January 7–February 1, 1967.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sculpture: New Acquisitions," April 6–September 5, 1982, no catalogue.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950-1980," September 13, 2017–January 14, 2018.