In the 1960s and 1970s Land Art was established in the United States using inspiration from the minimalistic style that was very popular in the 1960s. Land Art, also called Earthworks, is an interaction and study of the natural elements and manmade art.3 One of the most well known and originators of Earthworks is Robert Smithson. Smithson created many inspirational pieces, which have lasted throughout the years, not only through land art but also with drawings, sculptures, films and writings.
Robert Smithson was born on January 2, 1938 in Passaic, New Jersey. He grew up there and went to a public school. As a child he was very interested in nature; he collected fossils and reptiles and took mean trips to the New York Museum of Natural History during his high school years.2 When Smithson was in high school he received a scholarship to study at the Art Students League in New York because of his artistic talent. After studying there, he spent two years studying at the Brooklyn Museum School. While he was there he developed skills in abstract expressionism.1
Smithson created paintings in the late 1950s that reflected his interest in creating conflict through the viewer’s beliefs; he often used “themes of the celestial and the demonic, the earthly and the spiritual, the sacred and the profane” to create underlying tension in his work.2 During his process of painting he started to shift to a more minimalistic style of art. A fellow minimalist artist Nancy Holt, who used her interest in biology to create sculptures, suggested to Smithson that he too should use sculpture to show his interest in natural history.
In 1963 Smithson married Nancy Holt; she encouraged his art to experiment with different mediums. Enantiamorphic Chambers is an example of his use of minimalist structure. When referring to this piece he said "If art is about vision, can it also be about non-vision…”3 meaning that the mirror parts of the structures you do not see just a reflection but a reflection of a reflection and so on. The crystalline shape represents not only how we view everything but also the illusions in nature. 1 Smithson did several more pieces involving mirrors and glass that incorporated natural materials like shells and soil.
Smithson became very interested in entropy, the measure of energy and the disorder of an object or even in nature. He based many pieces both writings and sculptures on the ideas that are associated with entropy. One of the main focuses was on the decay of natural life.3
In the late 1960s Smithson started to create his earthworks. He started by making them as ‘landmarkers’ like a map using mostly natural materials. He started making his most commonly known piece, the Spiral Jetty, in 1970 off of Utah’s Great Salt Lake.1 It was the start to his large scale earthwork. He was inspired by an Indian monument he saw in Ohio, the Great Serpent Mound. This was a turning point for him; he was able to finally achieve his goal of putting...