New York, NY-In June 2005, Dia Art Foundation, in collaboration with the University of California Press, published an in-depth, scholarly study of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970), a monumental artwork situated in Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Acquired by Dia as a gift from the Estate of the artist in 1999, this work is one of the most significant in the institution’s permanent collection. Timed to coincide with a major retrospective of Smithson’s works organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, this publication focuses on the ensemble of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty works: earthwork, film, and essay.
Thirty years after his untimely death, Robert Smithson remains one of the most influential artists of his generation. His complex ideas took root in many forms, including drawings, projects, proposals, sculpture, earthworks, films, and critical writings. Smithson’s provocative and seminal works, made from the mid-sixties to the early seventies, redefined the language of sculpture. A founder of the art form known as earthworks or Land art, he is perhaps best known for Spiral Jetty.
This iconic earthwork was built at Rozel Point, in the Great Salt Lake, in April 1970. Constituted of black basalt rocks and earth, Spiral Jetty forms a coil 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide that stretches out counterclockwise into the translucent red water of the Great Salt Lake. The unique relationship of the Jetty to its location features the effects on the work of both the lake’s continually changing water levels and the lake’s abundance of red algae, which gives the water its color. Smithson’s film Spiral Jetty was completed later that year, and the third component in this ensemble, an essay also titled “The Spiral Jetty,” was published in 1972.
Dia’s new book presents a rich portrait of this celebrated work, in both words and images, including a reprint of Smithson’s influential text, as well as several new, commissioned essays. Lynne Cooke, Dia’s curator, examines the triad of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty works-earthwork, film, and text-within the context of his oeuvre, while art historian Ann Reynolds, art historian George Baker, and poet Lytle Shaw focus individually on each of the interrelated works. A recently discovered, never-before-published 1971 interview between art critic Kenneth Baker and Smithson provides a direct account of Smithson’s thinking soon after the Jetty was built. Bob Phillips, the contractor responsible for the construction of earthwork, contributes a moving account of its creation; artist Diana Thater presents a section-by-section examination of Smithson’s film; and horticulturist Catherine Phillips narrates a personal anecdote about a surprising find at the site of the earthwork. A selected bibliography, comprising among other references relevant books, pamphlets, and articles from Smithson’s own library, is also included.
Amply illustrated, this 206-page hardcover volume includes 155 full-color images and 60 black-and-white images, featuring historical photographs by Smithson himself and Nancy Holt, as well as those both iconic and rarely seen taken by Gianfranco Gorgoni. Additionally, the book includes a striking visual diary revealing the changing environmental conditions of the earthwork over the past thirty-five years.
Copublished with the University of California Press, Spiral Jetty is available online at www.diabooks.org; at the bookshop at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, Dia’s museum in New York’s Hudson Valley; and at major bookstores and museum shops for $39.95. Bookshop orders should be placed through the University of California Press at the toll-free phone number (800) UC-BOOKS or (800) 777-4726. For more information on the University of California Press, see www.ucpress.edu.
Robert Smithson was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1938. In 1953, as a high-school student, he won a scholarship to New York’s Art Students League, where he studied in the evenings for two years, also taking classes at the Brooklyn Museum School in 1956. Several months after being included in the seminal exhibition "Primary Structures" at New York’s Jewish Museum in 1966, he had his first significant solo exhibition at Dwan Gallery, where he would later curate the exhibition "Earthworks" (1968). Smithson died in a plane crash in Amarillo, Texas, in 1973, while working on Amarillo Ramp. Major retrospectives of his work have been organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, New York (1980); the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Centre Julio González, Valencia (1993); the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo (1999); and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2004).
Dia Art Foundation
Dia Art Foundation was founded in 1974. A nonprofit institution, Dia is internationally renowned for initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects. Dia presents public programs and its permanent collection of works from the 1960s through the present at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, a 300,000 square-foot former printing facility on the Hudson River in Beacon, New York. Dia also plans to relocate its contemporary exhibition program in New York City to a new facility located at the future entrance to the High Line public park in downtown Manhattan. Additionally, the foundation maintains long-term, site-specific projects in the western United States, in New York City, and on Long Island.
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