Tag Archives: Broken Glass

Modern Art Monday Presents: Robert Smithson, Map of Broken Glass (Atlantis)

Map of Atlantis
All Photos By Gail

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:

Shards of Glass

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.

Map of Atlantis

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.”

Map of Atlantis

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.

Smash It Up

Shattered Glass
Ask Me What Happened to that 11 x1 4 Framed Halftone of Green Gartside


I’m fast asleep in my bed when I am awakened by a loud crash/bang/boom which I immediately identify with some kind of commotion (i.e. loud, drunken assholes who have no sense of consideration for sleeping people) going on between the front door of the building and the stairs…because that’s the wall my bed is up against. Along with this giant thud that sounds like Thor just took a freefall from Valhalla comes the sound of framed pictures being tossed from the wall onto the floor just behind my head, because that wall is closest to the door and thus takes the brunt of such commotions. Did I hear breaking glass?

Where am I?

What’s been destroyed?

Should I get up to look for shards of glass on the floor and to mourn the death of some irreplaceable framed rock star artifact?

No, I’ll wait until morning. Nothing can be done now. Bastards.

So, this morning I take a peek at the detritus of last night’s destruction and what I see is one (only one!) frame laying face down on the floor. I lift it gingerly by a corner to avoid any accidental lacerations and find it’s my 8″x 10″, live-in-concert, one-of-a-kind photo of Richard Butler from the Psychedelic Furs, which he personally signed with a big fat silver sharpie more than 20 years ago. Glass not broken. Awesome.

A few of the smaller framed pictures that sit on the shelf above the radiator have moved ever so close to the edge of that self, but remain on the shelf. Me: feeling lucky.

After I get out of the shower I head for the computer to check the email. On the floor to the left of my computer lies my Cleopatra Records wall clock. Beside it on the floor: the battery, which has shaken loose of the clock’s back by the sheer force of being thrown from the wall. The face of the clock reads: 12:25. Now I even know the exact time of the attack. I replace the battery in the clock and return to the bathroom to continue my morning routine. Fifteen minutes later, the minute hand has not moved.

The clock is broken.


That is my story.