Tag Archive | Robert Smithson

Modern Art Monday Presents: Robert Smithson, Untitled [Record Player]

Record Player Full View
Robert Smithson, Untitled [Record Player], (1962); Record Player with Found Objects and Collage (All Photos by Gail)

When Robert Smithson died in a plane crash in 1973, his fame as an artist was based on his creation of monumental earthworks such as Spiral Jetty, or minimalist sculptures using both Mirrored and regular, plate Glass.

But the James Cohan Gallery (in their brand new space in Chinatown) just hosted its inaugural exhibit, Robert Smithson: Pop, which featured a collection of the artist’s work from the early 1960s — including fluorescent-colored pencil sketches of both male and female nudes, collages, and found object sculptures — all of which were completely unlike anything the average Smithson fan would have been familiar with. You can read more about the exhibit and see photos in this great article over at Hyperallergic.

Record Player Side View

I went to see Pop just few days before it closed and while I loved the exhibit, there was one piece that resonated particularly strongly with my aesthetic sensibilities. In the rear room of the gallery, along with a  few drawings, there was a small portable Record Player inside a display vitrine. The box for the record player is covered in collaged pictures of men and women, tabloid headlines, and plastic trinkets and fake flowers.

Record Player Lid
Collage on Outside Lid of Record Player

Record Player top Side View

Inside, the box has been filled with twigs and dried grass, which make a nest for a small, blue bird.

Record Player Turn Table Detail

The turn table has been transformed into a hot pink pond, filled with tiny toys including neon swans, sail boats, and little plastic babies that float about on their backs across the pink surface. It is so cool and completely visually captivating; it’s hard to believe that Smithson’s early work of Pop Art is over 50 years old now! I never would have imagined, from the works of his that I  already knew so well, that  Robert Smithson had a body of work like this in his portfolio. I’m glad I was able to see and photograph it before the exhibit closed in mid-January.

Photographed as Part of the Exhibit Robert Smithson: Pop at James Cohan Gallery, Located at 291 Grand Street in Chinatown, NYC.

Record Player Alternate View

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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
Ouch

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. You should grab a coffee and go see them.

Robert Smithson Signage

Modern Art Monday Presents: Mirror Stratum By Robert Smithson

Robert Smithson Mirror Stratum
All Photos By Gail

Mirror Stratum (1966) by Robert Smithson (1938 – 1973) is made up of Stacked Mirrors on a Formica-Covered Base and makes for such a lovely, pyramid-shaped reflective thing to try to get decent photos of. The reflection you see slightly in the above photos is a fragment of the phrase, “Wall Pitted By a Single Rifle Shot,” which is a caption (itself a work of art by Lawrence Weiner) written high across the wall closest to the sculpture.

Robert Smithson Mirror Stratum

On July 20, 1973, Smithson died in a plane crash, while surveying sites for his work Amarillo Ramp in the vicinity of Amarillo, Texas. He was 35 years old. Despite his early death, and relatively few surviving major works, Smithson has a following amongst many contemporary artists.

Mirror Stratum By Robert Smithson is part of the permanent collection at The Museum Of Modern Art in NYC.

Robert Smithson Mirror Stratum