Category:spiral jetty

I guess there's some...irony? justice? synchronicity? between Robert Smithson's non-site works--pieces of far-off locations displaced into a gallery--and twiddling your thumbs at a boring* Smithson symposium in a college auditorium while the last 36 hours of the artist's Floating Island tick by in gorgeous, sunny, autumnal splendor.

Net net: forget the next three sessions of the symposium (maybe they'll be podcast), and get your butt to the river to watch the barges go by.

[*although one potential bombshell was dropped, it went seemingly unnoticed. In answer to the moderator's question about ever rebuilding the Spiral Jetty by allowing new rocks to be piled onto it, the artist's widow and executor Nancy Holt didn't reject the idea.

There's precedent, she said, because Smithson sometimes instructed Holt or other friends go get rocks for his pieces. He didn't privilege the hand of the artist, she said. True, perhaps, but only partly relevant; more to the point is Smithson's own intentions for the effects of entropy on the Jetty, not whether he had to be present to dump the rocks. The other factor is how to deal with increasing touristification of the site, which now gets tour buses and up to 100 visitors/day.]

New York Is Smithson Country this week, what with the Floating Island and the Whitney retrospective and the Smithson Symposium all day Saturday. What symposium, you say? Actually, that's what I said. I had no idea.

Anyway, over four sessions, artists, curators and historians will discuss the Spiral Jetty, Smithson's writings, films, travels, and influence [HUGE, in case you can't make it]. Me, I'm going to hear Nancy Holt and folks talk about the construction and evolution of the Jetty; and Chrissie Iles and Joan Jonas talk about road trips and film.

Schedule and reservation info is in the sidebar at []
Smithson on [or on Smithson, actually]
Bonus Smithson: Tyler Green reports from the launch of Floating Island for the LAT

September 16, 2005

Tote That Barge

smithson_barge_nyt.jpgRandy Kennedy has an article on the making of Robert Smithson's Floating Island, a tree-filled barge which will chug around lower Manhattan for a week or so:

Smithson's project is just as intimately connected to Central Park, which he regarded, in all its artificial pastorality, as a conceptual artwork of its own. (He revered Frederick Law Olmsted and said that he found him more interesting than Duchamp.) While not nearly as monumental as Smithson's most famous work, "Spiral Jetty," a 1,500-foot-long curlicue of basalt jutting into the Great Salt Lake in Utah, the island - which resembles a rectangular chunk of Central Park, neatly cookie-cuttered out - is a further twist on Smithson's career-long fascination with displacement. This generally meant taking art outdoors and bringing pieces of the land back indoors, into galleries. In the case of "Floating Island," the displacement is all outdoors, an exploration of land and water, urban and rural, real and recreated, center and periphery. As a paean to Central Park, it can be seen as a kind of artificial model of an artificial model of nature.
It's Not Easy Making Art That Floats [nyt]

Even cooler, though, at, Times makes a raft of its Smithson coverage, dating back to 1982, available (for who knows how long). [ coverage of Smithson, alas, only goes back a couple of years.]

June 26, 2005

Earth Art Via Satellite

[via land+living]In the wake of Google Maps' release, a few sites have started collecting coordinates and satellite images of various earth art works, including Spiral Jetty, Michael Heizer's Double Negative, James Turrell's Roden Crater, and Walter deMaria's Lightning Field.

Here's my own contribution, a Google Map view of The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX. You can see Judd's large concrete sculptures lined up in the field, the twin barrel vaulted warehouses with milled aluminum boxes inside, the arcing row of converted barracks-installations, and the Judd-altered gymnasium on the left.

Looking for Earth Art With Google Maps []
Monumental Land Art []
Chinati Foundation []

Do you ever wish you still had those Matisse Cutout posters from freshman year? Well, the good old days are back, my art advertising-loving friend.

BetterWall will sell you an actual, cleaned up, polyvinyl street banner from your favorite museum exhibition--or, if that one's sold out, from some other exhibition you chose to make yourself look sophisticated-- that's ready for hanging right in your own home!

They're cheaper than art, but hella more expensive than posters. But if you've got $300-1800 to spend, and you don't want to buy actual art for some reason, BetterWall is for you.

Buy one of 30 Robert Smithson Spiral Jetty banners from the 2004 MoCA retrospective, $549
[, via nyt]

Recent record flooding in Utah has raised the water level (elevation, that is) of the Great Salt Lake to a five-year record high of 4,198 feet, enough to submerge the Spiral Jetty and scuttle any art world latecomer's summer pilgrimage plans.

With mountain runoff, the lake is expected to keep rising through July.

Meanwhile, the rest of the artworld is in Venice, which is also sinking. Coincidence? I wonder.

Floods pump life back into lake [sltrib, thanks, dad]

So how did there come to be street signs for the Spiral Jetty?

For years, the only way to see Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty was from the air, or in a photograph, or in the artist's own making-of film, which was plenty for 99.9% of art worlders and normals alike.

When the Jetty first re-emerged from the Great Salt Lake in 1994, only a few people knew about it, and even fewer actually took the trouble to drive out and see it. But appetites were whetted, and conceptual art was intersecting with an Easy Rider-meets-Wild, Wild West road trip in just the right slightly adventurous, hip enough way that when it resurfaced again in 2002, visiting the Jetty quickly went from curator-esoteric to art-world-must-see to mainstream.


On the 10-year anniversary of the re-emergence of Spiral Jetty and my first visit, and in keeping with our family tradition of visiting the Jetty whenever we attend a wedding in Salt Lake City, we popped on over Saturday in a rented Camry.

These new signs made finding the Jetty so easy, even Artforum could do it.

dry_spiral_jetty.jpg, from Todd Gibson's From The FloorTodd Gibson's posting an extensive first-hand account of his recent visit to the Spiral Jetty, which, because of an ongoing drought, is now completely out of the water.

That's fast. Some friends went in early July, and it still had water around it, although the Jetty itself was entirely walkable. [via bloggy]

Faithful pilgrims of contemporary art will also appreciate Gibson's account of his visit to the Lightning Field. He does get around.

Related: Other Spiral Jetty and Smithson posts on
Post about a show that included the intriguing backstory of the official photographs of Lightning Field.

Well, not yet. But after years of drought, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty is so visible (and walkable), it's getting so many visitors, the Dia Center is thinking: upgrades. Making the bone-jarring road more accessible; maybe adding some rocks here and there; getting it up out of the water so those pesky salt crystals don't form on it anymore. As Michael Govan, the Dia's director, notes, "The spiral is not as dramatic as when it was first built. The Jetty is being submerged in a sea of salt."

"What we're conceiving is an exciting, interactive, immersive Spiral Jetty experience. It'll be educational, and entertaining. With the lake's salt level where it is right now, you just float. You can't actually immerse. We're talking to some of the governor's economic development folks about fixing that, though. They're in Salt Lake. And IMAX. Can you imagine Smithson's movie in IMAX? Oh, and we gotta fix that fence over there."

Okay, I made that last paragraph up. Basically, all that's happening is, they've surveyed the site, and they realize the Jetty won't survive if 2,000 people walk across it every year. One potential benefit of rebuilding Spiral Jetty: Journalists might stop pretending it's missing.

Related: Dia, the Baedeker for the Contemporary Art Grand Tour [bonus non sequitur: post includes the sole remaining excerpts from Plum Sykes' outline for Bergdorf Blondes]

Update: check out John Perrault's commentary at ArtsJournal In 25-words or less: "I knew Smithson. Smithson was kinda a friend of mine. A reconstituted Jetty, sir, is no Robert Smithson."

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Since 2001 here at, 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.

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