Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty
Great Salt Lake, Utah
Robert Smithson was born in Passaic, 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 the next two years, also taking classes at the Brooklyn Museum School in 1956. Smithson's first solo exhibition was in 1959, at the Artist's Gallery, New York. He began to produce what he considered his first mature works of writing and sculpture in 1964. Smithson used black basalt rocks and earth from the site surrounding the Great Salt Lake in Utah, to create the monumental Earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970), a coil 1,500 feet long and fifteen feet wide that stretches out counterclockwise into the translucent red water of the lake. 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), and the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo (1999). In 1999, Dia acquired Spiral Jetty as a gift of his estate.