Robert Smithson (American, 19381973)
Photostat; 7 11/16 x 11 in. (19.5 x 27.9 cm)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1992 (2001.292)
© Estate of Robert Smithson/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
One of the most important and influential American artists of the second half of the last century, Smithson is best known for his landmark Spiral Jetty (1970)a 1,500-foot sculpture of mud, salt crystal, and rock coiling over ten acres of the Great Salt Lake, Utah. Equally at home in sculpture and photography, film and writing, he simultaneously expanded our notion of art and used that expanded field to reinvigorate the great subjects of the past, among them landscape, myth, history, and the course of civilizations.
This image represents one of Smithson's first experiments with photography: starting with a found photograph of oil tankers being pulled ashore, the artist added a strange crystalline structurepart Martian outpost, part Minimalist sculptureto the scene. He then printed the montage as a photostat (a commercial technique used by architects), making it into an hallucinatory science-fiction vision of a prehistoric future.