October 8, 2014
Robert Smithson and The Spiral Jetty
Robert Smithson is arguably the most famous Earthworks artist of the 20th century. In 1970 Smithson began work on his most famous work, The Spiral Jetty. The Spiral Jetty is many things, iconic, mysterious, controversial, historical, and above all beautiful. It is also one of Smithson's most contentious works of art due to it's impermanence. Smithson was captivated by ideas of entropy, and the process of matter taking shape. This essay will take a closer look at the subjects that influenced the artwork, the controversy surrounding the work, and the analysis of the work itself.
Robert Smithson was an american sculptor born in Passaic, NJ in 1938. He fleetingly attended The Brooklyn Museum School. After attending The Brooklyn Museum School, he met and married fellow artist Nancy Holt in 1963. He started out his art career with paintings and collages, and then later moved to small gallery-style works.
Smithson then moved on to Earthworks, or changes in land level, typically made from piles of artificially placed rocks, debris and soil. One of his first large-scale works of art was a proposal for the Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport. For the airport Smithson was brought on as a consultant to a New York-based architecture firm Tippetts, Abbett, McCarthy, Stratton. The suggested art was comprised of mirrors, cameras, and other objects that could be seen while riding in airplanes. The project did not succeed but attributed greatly to the development of Earthworks. Smithson proposed several large projects in Texas, but the only one completed was Amarillo Ramp. He was viewing the arrangements of the sculpture when his plane tragically crashed in 1973. The work was finished after his death by his wife Nancy Holt and several...