While there is no shortage of very cool artworks to see at the Dia: Beacon Museum in Beacon, NY, one of my favorite things that I saw on my recent trip there with Geoffrey is Robert Smithson’s Map of Broken Glass (Alantis) which is mind blowing on so many levels. First of all, it’s huge pile of dangerous glass shards sticking up into the air, which if you fell onto them, they would surely injure you gravely. Take a closer look:
I almost can’t believe they don’t have some kind of rope thing around its perimeter to keep kids from impaling themselves. But then again, it’s cool that the Museum trusts people to not be complete idiots, because to have to guard visitors against observing the work close-up would be to compromise the art; at least that’s what I think.
According to Artist Alan Rapp, “The tons of shattered glass forming Map of Broken Glass (Atlantis) (1969) are layered both literally and figuratively. As the title implies, the sculpture is to be seen not simply as a pile of flat, sharp, transparent fragments but also as a map of a legendary lost continent (almost certainly, however, a fictional one).
Smithson’s work suggests that the concrete materiality of sculpture depends on the mind’s ability to see metaphorically in order to comprehend meanings within the language of art. The resulting gaps are passageways akin to Alice’s Looking Glass or the Bellman’s blank map, in that they are thresholds to an elsewhere.”
Robert Smithson died in a plane crash on July 20, 1973, while surveying sites for his work Amarillo Ramp in the vicinity of Amarillo, Texas. He was just 35 years old. What a shame and great loss to the art world, and the world in general. Despite his early death, and relatively few surviving major works, Smithson has a following amongst many contemporary artists. The Dia: Beacon has an entire large gallery dedicated to his work, and there are perhaps six or seven of his earthworks on display. You should go see them.