Born in Passaic, New Jersey, Robert Smithson (2 January 1938–20 July 1973), spent his formative years in New Jersey. In 1963 he married the artist Nancy Holt (1938–2014), who managed the Estate of Robert Smithson from 1973–2014, and who literally willed Holt/Smithson Foundation into being.Read More
Smithson is best known for his earthworks Spiral Jetty (1970), Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971), and Amarillo Ramp (1973). Prior these earthworks Smithson created performative entropic land works, such as the ephemeral sculptures Asphalt Rundown (1969, Rome), Glue Pour (1969, Vancouver), Concrete Pour (1969, Chicago), and Partially Buried Woodshed (1970, Kent State) speak poignantly to issues of time and the human condition.
Smithson’s first solo exhibition, with emphasis on what he described as ‘expressionistic work’, took place in 1957 at Allan Brilliant’s gallery in New York. The artist’s peripatetic life took him to Rome in 1961, when George Lester offered him his first solo international exhibition at Galleria George Lester, where he explored quasi-religious subject matter. His early paintings, drawings and sculptures made between 1961 and 1963 were imbued with references to concrete poetry, popular culture, and science fiction. Influenced by minimalism, in 1964 Smithson declared his quasi-minimal sculptures made from industrial materials of metal and mirrored Plexiglas as his ‘mature’ works, distancing himself from his early expressionistic paintings and drawings.
Smithson’s writings on art, western culture, graphic texts, and interviews, are published in The Writings of Robert Smithson, edited by Nancy Holt (1979, New York University Press, with an expanded version edited by Jack Flam published in 1998). His works are in numerous museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Dia Art Foundation, Museum of Modern Art New York, National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Whitney Museum of American Art.
Text courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery.
Drawing on the legacies of two artists whose lives and work were intertwined, the new Holt-Smithson Foundation has been established to honour Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson and promulgate their ideas.
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