(1938 – 1973), United States

Robert Smithson Biography

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.

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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.

Robert Smithson
featured artworks

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Untitled by Robert Smithson contemporary artwork sculpture
Robert Smithson Untitled, c. 1966 White and unpainted metal
24 x 29 x 29 inches
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High Sierra by Robert Smithson contemporary artwork painting
Robert Smithson High Sierra, 1964 Oil on canvas
122 x 92 cm
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Untitled by Robert Smithson contemporary artwork works on paper, mixed media
Robert Smithson Untitled, 1963 Mixed media with collage on paper
76.2 x 55.9 cm
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Ephemera - Island Project postcard by Robert Smithson contemporary artwork print
Robert Smithson Ephemera - Island Project postcard, 1970 Black and white print
10.8 x 13.5 cm
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Robert Smithson: Sculpture curated by Robert Hobbs by Robert Smithson contemporary artwork drawing
Robert Smithson Robert Smithson: Sculpture curated by Robert Hobbs, 1980–1982 Ink on paper
83.8 x 57.1 cm
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Blind in the Valley of Suicides by Robert Smithson contemporary artwork drawing
Robert Smithson Blind in the Valley of Suicides, 1962 Ink on paper
61 x 34.9 cm
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Untitled by Robert Smithson contemporary artwork sculpture
Robert Smithson Untitled, 1966 Painted metal
38.1 x 38.1 x 38.1 cm
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Robert Smithson
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Marian Goodman Gallery contemporary art gallery in New York, United States
Marian Goodman Gallery London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris
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