Robert Smithson Essay

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  • Topic: Robert Smithson, Great Salt Lake, Land art
  • Pages : 3 (700 words )
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  • Published : May 30, 2011
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Robert Smithson remains one of the most influential and original artists of modern times who has had a major impact on artists of his generation, and continues to do so today. Smithson's provocative works, made in the mid-sixties to early seventies, redefined the language of sculpture.

He was one of the founders of the art form known as earthworks or land art, and is most well known for the Spiral Jetty, 1970, located in the Great Salt Lake, Utah. This monumental earthwork was inspired in part when Smithson saw the Great Serpent Mound, a Pre-Columbian Indian monument in southwestern Ohio. The earthworks were a radical departure from making formal objects situated in a gallery setting. The Spiral Jetty embodied one of his goals which was to place work in the land rather than situated on the land. Smithson's earthworks defined an entirely original notion of landscape art.

Dissatisfied with the art of this time, Smithson did not limit himself to any one form or style of art. He moved beyond modernism by abandoning rules and traditional art materials. Smithson defied convention and produced works that could not be easily categorized. He used non-traditional art materials such as language, mirrors, maps, dump trucks, abandoned quarries, hotels, contractors, and earth to produce his radical sculptures, photographs, films, and earthworks.

PARTIALLY BURIED WOODSHED

Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Jan, 1970
one woodshed and twenty truckloads of earth;
18'6" x 10'2" x 45'

Smithson explored ideas involving decay and renewal, chaos and order with his Earthworks. He spoke at great length in interviews and essays on decay and his notion of time. Partially Buried Woodshed, 1970, Kent State University, Kent State, was a piece Smithson created on site during an invitational arts festival. He located an abandoned woodshed and poured earth on to the structure until it cracked. This work is a prime example of Smithson's personal ideas about the importance of...
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