Lot 192
  • 192

Robert Smithson

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  • Robert Smithson
  • Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake (Movie Treatment)
  • signed twice, titled and dated twice 1970
  • pencil on paperboard, in 2 parts
  • 28 1/2 by 23 1/2 in. 72.4 by 60 cm.


John Weber Gallery, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Ira Young (Praxis Collection), Los Angeles and Vancouver
Acquired by the present owner directly from the above


Vancouver Art Gallery, Praxis Collection, August - September 1984, cat. no. 41

Catalogue Note

Robert Smithson, with his innovative Earthworks, was one of the most influential and original artists of his time. His complex ideas, expressed in drawings, projects, writings and films from the mid-sixties to his death in 1973, were provocative and seminal in redefining the nature of sculpture. One of the founders of Earthworks or 'land art,' Smithson's most famous work is Spiral Jetty, a 1970 project located in the Great Salt Lake, Utah. Partially inspired by the Great Serpent Mound, a Pre-Columbian monument in Ohio, Spiral Jetty embodied Smithson's goal to place work within the land, abandoning any rules or formal structures and embracing non-traditional art materials.  One of the few realized projects by Smithson, Spiral Jetty is a dramatic work that forces change on its environment while, in turn, being transformed by it. Constructed of tons of earth and rock, the sculpture is subject to flooding, erosion, and salination, encompassing entropy and change within the nature of the work.

This drawing, formally from the Praxis Collection which specialized in sculptors' drawings, is a proposal for a film documenting the making of Spiral Jetty.  Meticulously detailed, Smithson sketches images ranging from detailed close-ups to long shots, including bulldozers and dump trucks in the process of earh-moving, salt crystals on tumbleweeds and rocks, wading boots, rippling water, a figure walking the length of the jetty and a dinosaur postcard. In the process of making a film of the finished Spiral Jetty, Smithson equated film stips to historical artifacts trapped in frames, with the movie editor acting as a paleontologist in reconstructing the whole. Smithson wrote ``The movieola becomes a `time machine' that transforms trucks into dinosaurs.'' (Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, New York, 1970, pp. 109-113). In its storyboard format, this detailed drawing by Smithson embodies his notion of historical evolution, fragmented over time, like pages torn from a book and scattered - a scene he enacted in the realized film of Spiral Jetty.