Category:spiral jetty

April 29, 2010

Hilton Kramer: TMI

God bless him, even if he's on the wrong side of [most of the intervening 40 years of] contemporary art history, you gotta love Hilton Kramer's eviscerating takedown of MoMA's 1970 conceptualist exhibition, Information, curated by Kynaston McShine:

The exhibition is, in its way, amusing and amazing, but only because it upholds an attitude one had scarcely thought worth entertaining: an attitude toward the artistic process that is so over-weeningly intellectual that it is, in its feeble results, virtually mindless. Here all the detritus of modern printing and electronic communications media has been transformed by an international gaggle of demi-intellectuals into a low grade form of show business. It leaves one almost nostalgic for a good old-fashioned hand-made happening.
Though he only mentioned one artist by name in his NY Times review [Hans Haacke], Kramer did note the "great many blowups of junky photographic materials...of earthworks," which I assume is a reference to the four Gianfranco Gorgoni photos that introduced the just-completed Spiral Jetty to the public.

Show at The Modern Raises Questions, July 2, 1970 [nyt archives]

smithson_jetty_poster.jpg

I've been working on a shot-for-shot remake of the Spiral Jetty film for a while, and so I'm quite familiar with the storyboard-like drawings Smithson did for it. Familiar with them as drawings, that is. He called them Movie Treatments.

It's a little embarrassing to admit I didn't realize Smithson had used a treatment/storyboard for the flyer/poster of the 1970 Dwan Gallery exhibition of Spiral Jetty until I read it in Kathleen Merrill Campagnolo's essay on the Jetty and its camera imagery in the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art Journal. But there it is:

DWAN 29 WEST 57 STREET NEW YORK OPENING OCTOBER 31 TO NOVEMBER 25
A 16 MM, 35 MINUTE COLOR AND SOUND FILM ON THE SPIRAL JETTY WILL
BE SHOWN DAILY AT 2:00 IN THE GALLERY FOR THE DURATION OF EXHIBITION.
The Dwan exhibition consisted primarily of Gianfranco Gorgoni's large-format photos of the Jetty, eight of which were included in Kynaston McShine's historic "Information" show at the Museum of Modern Art that summer.

Given the iconic aspects of the photos and the powerful influence of the film--not to mention the experience of visiting the Jetty itself--it's somehow odd to think of encountering the Jetty first in terms of Smithson's site/non-site paradigm, as a situation represented in a gallery.

It's also interesting to note that the film only played once a day, not on a continuous loop as is often the case now. It was an event more than an installation.

Anyway, I would like you to send me one of these posters, please. If you have one you don't need, or perhaps some extras. It need not be signed. Thank you.

March 3, 2010

The Not So Spiral Jetty

spiral_jetty_v09.jpg

For a generation of art watchers, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty existed primarily as an image, via the making-of film and Gianfranco Gorgoni's iconic aerial photographs, which were exhibited at MoMA's seminal Information show and were published in Smithson's Artforum essay on the work. This mediated encounter with the work inevitably affected its interpretation. But similarly, the 16 years of visibility and visitability since the Jetty's re-emergence from the Great Salt Lake can lull you into a sense of complacency that you now know the work. And by you, of course, I mean me.

The latest issue of the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art Journal includes an excellent essay, "Spiral Jetty through the Camera's Eye," by doctoral candidate Kathleen Merrill Campagnolo, which looks at how Smithson used photography and film to shape not only the reception of the Jetty, but its conception and evolution as well.

For example, at first, and even until a week after it was supposedly completed, it wasn't actually a spiral. The image above is from a contact sheet Gorgoni took in April 1970. It shows the Jetty:

...with a single, simple curve to the left, creating a hook shape with a large circle of rocks at the end...In a recently published account of the construction of the sculpture, the contractor Bob Phillips reveals that Smithson considered this first curved jetty, as seen in Gorgoni's photographs, to be complete, but about a week after the construction crew had been sent away, he called them back to alter the configuration...

...Not surprisingly, the early version of the sculpture was not included in any of Smithson's Spiral Jetty works. In fact, by the time he had finished his essay in 1970-71, the text reads as if the form the jetty took was a foregone conclusion from his first arrival at Rozel Point.

Campagnolo's article has another Gorgoni photo, of Smithson and Richard Serra looking at a lost/destroyed sketch of Jetty v1.0 with v2.0 superimposed on it.

To see the sketch, you should really read the article. But I am reproducing the top half of the image here because I am in awe of Serra's impressive Jewfro.

serra_jewfro_gorgoni.jpg

PDF: Vol 47: 1-2, The Archives of American Art Journal [aaa.si.edu via the Archives of American Art Blog Really? Yes. It's awesome. [blog.aaa.si.edu, probably via tyler green, since it mentions hockey]

amazon_earthwork_antiquity.jpg

I guess if God can appear to a backwoods New York farmboy, send an angel to groom him for four years, and then command him to translate a sheaf of golden plates into the Book of Mormon, He can also guide Robert Smithson to build the Spiral Jetty in Utah; lure me out to visit it within a couple of months of its reappearance in 1994; and start me a-bloggin' years ago about Earth Art and Google Maps; so that, when it's on Discovery Channel, there'll be someone to point out that the Pre-Columbian geometric earthworks in western Amazonia are--duh--Lamanite-era copies of Nephite-style forts.

But since that would require paying even a little attention or credence to the archaeology-based school of Book of Mormon apologists I'll pass.

It's enough for me to think of the headaches these earthworks will give to Michael Heizer.

'Astonishing' Ancient Amazon Civilization Discovery Detailed [discovery.com]
Pre-Columbian geometric earthworks in the upper Purús: a complex society in western Amazonia [antiquity.ac.uk]

dolphin_spiral_bbc.jpg

I know dolphins are supposed to be super-intelligent and all, BUT. While this detournement of Smithson's Spiral Jetty executed from rapidly dissipating, tail-agitated mud is passably performative, as a critique of entropy, it's a little too pat and predictable. Back to the studio, dolphin!

Life: Bottlenose dolphins mud-ring feeding [youtube via, uhh..]

July 21, 2009

Convergence

jetty_ball_art21.jpg

If I'm a little high right now, it's just because these conservators just hit like every art button I have:

To photo-document Spiral Jetty, we used a tethered helium balloon about 8-10 feet in diameter, attached to a digital camera that would take an image every few seconds until the camera's memory card filled up. Each of us let out string from a spool and sent the balloon up anywhere from 50 to 600 meters, depending on what we were trying to capture and other factors such as wind and amount of helium to give lift. The results were absolutely amazing! Now I have a low tech, low cost way to take aerial images of the sculpture -- something I plan to do on an annual basis. These images can be paired with data that we collected using a Total Station survey instrument in order to create scaled 3D maps and diagrams of the Jetty and its materials.
Extending the Conservation Framework: A Site-Specific Conservation Discussion with Francesca Esmay [art21.org via man]

Not 2004 when the state put up a sign pointing to it. Not 2002, when my sister first took a college date out to see it but Artforum's Nico Israel couldn't find it. 1994.

After a Salt Lake City artist friend, Patrick Barth, told me that Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty was partially visible in mid-summer 1994, I drove to the Jetty in my sister's car--no way I'd take my own car--in early August 1994. The larger rocks were visible, forming a fragmentary outline of the structure. They were all covered in glistening salt crystals.

So please, enough with the, it re-emerged whenever the New York Times first found out about it nonsense.

Who knew? Tacita Dean writes in the Guardian about her late friend JG Ballard's shared interest in Robert Smithson:

My relationship to Ballard had begun a little earlier, with our mutual interest in the work of the US artist Robert Smithson. In 1997, I tried to find Smithson's famous 1970 earthwork, Spiral Jetty, in the Great Salt Lake of Utah. I had directions faxed to me from the Utah Arts Council, which I supposed had been written by Smithson himself. I only knew what I was looking for from what I could remember of art school lectures: the iconic aerial photograph of the basalt spiral formation unfurling into a lake. In the end, I never found it; it was either submerged at the time, or I wasn't looking in the right place. But the journey had a marked impact on me, and I made a sound work about my attempt to find it. Ballard must have read about it, because he sent me a short text he had written on Smithson, for an exhibition catalogue.

It was the writer, curator and artist Jeremy Millar who became convinced Smithson knew of Ballard's short story, The Voices of Time, before building his jetty. All Smithson's books had been listed after his death in a plane crash in 1973 - and The Voices of Time was among them. The story ends with the scientist Powers building a cement mandala or "gigantic cipher" in the dried-up bed of a salt lake in a place that feels, by description, to be on the very borders of civilisation: a cosmic clock counting down our human time. It is no surprise that it is a copy of The Voices of Time that lies beneath the hand of the sleeping man on the picnic rug in the opening scenes of Powers of Ten, Charles and Ray Eames' classic 1977 film about the relative size of things in the universe.

As it happens, I'm reading Millar's book about Fischli & Weiss right now. And Massimiliano Gioni and the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi are opening a nice retrospective of Dean's work in Milan in a couple of weeks. As soon as my copy of Ballard's just-published interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist arrives, the loop will be complete.

The cosmic clock with Ballard at its core [guardian, thanks stuart]

These are the last two segments from the lecture I gave at the University of Utah School of Art in 2007, titled Visiting Artist [sic]. They're both about Robert Smithson. The first [above] is about Smithson's own 1972 slideshow lecture at the UofU, "Hotel Palenque," which he also published as an Artforum article, and which his estate eventually sold to the Guggenheim as a multimedia installation piece of art.

I love "Hotel Palenque," and took its irreverent challenge to the orthodoxy of art and art criticism as part of the inspiration for some of my own talk. In preparation for my own lecture, I tracked down some people who were present at Smithson's original lecture, to see what the artist may have said or indicated at the time.

Unlike the Guggenheim, I am deeply unconvinced that the lecture is a work of art per se. But I find it useful asking how and why treat this thing [sic] an artist made/did/said differently depending on whether it is or isn't Art.

The second clip is the hometown favorite, the Spiral Jetty. In 2007, the big questions surrounding the Jetty concerned its recognition as a tourist attraction. The state government decided to do a big cleanup of the industrial detritus and abandoned machinery on Rozel Point [they arbitrarily classified wood and stone structures as "historic," while removing all metal.] And then Smithson's widow Nancy Holt made offhand comments about how it'd be fine with Bob to rebuild the Jetty, because that wasn't the kind of entropy he meant, anyway. So I riffed on what kind of entropy might be best for a once-obscure, once-abandoned, now-popular Earthwork.

All Visiting Artist [sic] posts:
Parts 2 & 3: On Dan Flavin
Parts 4 & 5: On Throwing Art Away
video of Part 6: On Joep van Lieshout, which I apparently didn't post here
Parts 7 & 7 [sic] on Robert Smithson

Not since we programmed it into the navigation system of my in-laws' car, anyway.

The car also has an offroad navigation feature that logs virtual GPS breadcrumbs at preset intervals along the way, but it proved unnecessary. The nearly featureless mesa where Heizer's land artwork is sited turns out to be a road with a name: Carp Elgin Rd.

In fact, there it is on Google Maps, one of the tightest satellite shots I've ever seen of Double Negative. Crazy.

double_negative_gmap.jpg

Update: OK, not to get all George Bush and the Grocery Scanner about it, but I just typed "Spiral Jetty" into Google Maps, and it came right up. With an upgraded photograph--and a label.

spiral_jetty_gmap.jpg

In fact, here are complete driving directions to the Jetty from 213 Park Avenue South, the former location of Max's Kansas City. [note: there is a weird little, unnecessary jog at the very end that I couldn't fix, but I'm not worried. Given the rate at which technology is iterating and altering the way once-isolated land artworks are experienced and perceived, I expect a realtime Google Streetview of the Jetty is already being planned on a whiteboard somewhere in Mountain View.]

Clearly, Google has been augmenting its map search with information found on the rest of the web. An otherwise seemingly Googleproof project like Michael Heizer's City, which he sited as remotely as he could, is pinpointed by latitude and longitude coordinates published on a Land Art site. City also has newer photos.

Roden Crater's there, under "Roden Crater, AZ," but it still has the quaint, old-timey satellite photo from 2005 or whatever. I hope they'll get around to upgrading it by the time Turrell finishes.

roden_crater_gmap.jpg

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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