Marian Goodman Gallery London and Holt/Smithson Foundation are pleased to announce the first exhibition of Robert Smithson at the Gallery, open from December 2, 2020 to January 9, 2021.
Born in Passaic, New Jersey, Robert Smithson (1938–1973) recalibrated the possibilities of art. For over fifty years his work and ideas have influenced artists and thinkers, building the ground from which contemporary art has grown.
Hypothetical Islands will pay attention to Smithson's enduring interest in islands. It will present over fifty works spanning 1961 to 1973, many of which will be exhibited for the first time in many decades. For Smithson, islands were speculative sites showing the constantly changing surface of our world and the limits of human knowledge. Some of his islands are locations for sculptural invention, others are sites investigating the formation of landscape through earthworks and sculptures. The selection of works will move from mobile to spiral islands, through forking jetties, meanders, concrete seas and rising volcanoes.
An autodidact, Smithson's interests in travel, cartography, geology, architectural ruins, prehistory, philosophy, science-fiction, popular culture, and language spiral through his work. In his short and prolific life, Smithson produced paintings, drawings, sculptures, architectural schemes, films, photographs, writings, earthworks, and all the stops between. From his landmark earthworks to his 'quasi-minimalist' sculptures, Nonsites, writings, proposals, collages, detailed drawings, and radical rethinking of landscape, Smithson's ideas are profoundly urgent for our times. By exploring the conceptual and physical boundaries of landscape Smithson raised questions about our place in the world, their relevance heightened as the dangers of global warming move ever closer.
Smithson's conceptual islands explore time, limits, scale, and human collaboration with geology. The exhibition will include a continuous film program focusing on Smithson's earthworks and interest in geological agency, featuring two previously unseen 1971 films—Bob with Books and Mangrove Ring. A careful selection of drawings will demonstrate his unrivalled capacity for invention. In 1970 he explained, 'I like landscapes that suggest prehistory. As an artist it is sort of interesting to take on the persona of a geological agent where man actually becomes part of that process rather than overcoming it.' Three years later he declared, 'Imagine yourself in Central Park one million years ago. You would be standing on a vast ice sheet, a 4,000-mile glacial wall, as much as 2,000 feet thick. Alone on the vast glacier, you would not sense its slow crushing, scraping, ripping movement as it advanced south, leaving great masses of rock debris in its wake.'
Hypothetical Islands will be accompanied by a simultaneous exhibition, Primordial Beginnings, at Galerie Marian Goodman, Paris. Both exhibitions feature rarely seen works from the personal collection of the artist Nancy Holt (1938-2014). Holt married Smithson in 1963 and managed his Estate between 1973 and 2014. Hypothetical Islands and Primordial Beginnings are organised in partnership with Holt/Smithson Foundation, an artist endowed foundation dedicated to continuing the creative legacies of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson.
Press release courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery.