Robert Smithson (1938–1973, b. Passaic, New Jersey), was an artist who expanded what art could be and where it could be found.,,
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Smithson with neolithic Pentre Ifan Dolmen at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Pembroke National Park, Pembrokeshire, S.W. Wales, U.K. October 1969. Photograph: Nancy Holt. © Holt/Smithson Foundation, licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York.

Marian Goodman Gallery is pleased to continue our artist-centric newsletter IN FOCUS, where we delve deeply into one artist on the MGG roster at a time. Aiming to show a fuller picture of the breadth of our artists' careers, we will feature our favorite stories, podcasts, interviews, artists’ writings and videos from the archive, as well as new and upcoming projects.

Robert Smithson (1938–1973, b. Passaic, New Jersey), was an artist who expanded what art could be and where it could be found. For over fifty years his work and ideas have influenced artists and thinkers alike, building the ground from which contemporary art has grown. Smithson was an autodidact whose interests in travel, cartography, geology, architectural ruins, prehistory, philosophy, science-fiction, popular culture, and language spiral through his work. He was fascinated by concepts of duality, entropy, and questions of how we might find our place in the world. In his short and prolific life, Smithson produced paintings, drawings, sculptures, architectural schemes, films, photographs, writings, earthworks, and all the stops in between. From his landmark earthworks, Spiral Jetty (1970) and Partially Buried Woodshed (1970), which celebrate their fiftieth anniversary this year, to his 'quasi-minimalist' sculptures, Nonsites, writings, projects and proposals, collages, detailed drawings, and radical rethinking of landscape, Smithson's ideas remain profoundly urgent for our times.

Today, follow along as we explore the reflective practice of Robert Smithson, particularly surrounding his concurrent exhibitions at Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris and London (Primordial Beginnings and Hypothetical Islands, respectively, both running through 9 January 2021). ↓


To a Robert Smithson playlist, organized by Natalie Rae Good (Collection Manager at Holt/Smithson Foundation) who journeyed through Robert Smithson’s music collection, inspired by works in the current exhibitions in London and Paris. These fifteen tracks travel through islands, crystal lands, moonscapes, and petrified forests in the company of lizards, turtles and frogs to make an eclectic soundtrack to Primordial Beginnings and Hypothetical Islands.

For the full inventory of Robert Smithson's music collection, see the companion publication to the 2004 Robert Smithson retrospective published by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles/University of California Press.


Holt/Smithson Foundation's "Friday Films" screening of Nancy Holt's The Making of Amarillo Ramp (1973/2013), which documents the construction of Robert Smithson's final earthwork, Amarillo Ramp (viewable through to 12 pm MT on Monday, December 7). While photographing the site of the earthwork in progress, Smithson died in a small airplane accident, along with pilot Gale Ray Rogers and photographer Robert E. Curtin. After his passing, Nancy Holt, Richard Serra, and Tony Shafrazi completed Amarillo Ramp according to Smithson's specifications. This film documents the sounds and actions of the powerful machinery necessary to create an earthwork of this scale, while underscoring the human skill and personal relationships that were integral to the completion of the work. This film is one of five included in Hypothetical Islands at Marian Goodman Gallery, London.


Scholar Charlie Hailey's May 2020 essay on Smithson, Island of Broken Glass, which investigates Smithson's pursuit of lost "islands and his maps for getting there."

The recent Financial Times' piece, "Robert Smithson – land art's alluring pioneer," which details the vast impact of Smithson's career, featuring personal testimonial from artist and contemporary Tacita Dean, as well as Holt/Smithson Foundation Executive Director, Lisa Le Feuvre.

Image Credits
1: Robert Smithson, You Young Folks (1961-1963). Ink and gouache on paper. 18 x 12 1/2 in. (45.7 x 31.8 cm). ©Holt/Smithson Foundation, Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York.
2: Robert Smithson, Amarillo Ramp (1973). Tecovas Lake, Amarillo, Texas. Diameter: 140 ft. (43 m). Height: Ground level to 15 ft. (4.6 m). Photograph: Gianfranco Gorgoni. ©Holt/Smithson Foundation, Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York.
3: Robert Smithson, Map of Broken Clear Glass (Atlantis) (1969). Collage, photostat, map, pencil. 16 ¾ x 14 in. (42.5 x 35.6 cm). ©Holt/Smithson Foundation, Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York.
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