Robert Smithson is best known as a pioneer of the Earthworks movement. However his involvement in the development of Earthworks is only one of his many contributions to postwar American art. His most popular concepts he innovated was a “site,” which is a place in the world where art is inseparable from its context. In addition to large-scale land interventions, Smithson’s artistic practice also includes photography, painting, film, and language.
Robert Smithson was born in Passaic, New Jersey in 1938. He was an only child. His father, Irving Smithson, was an automobile mechanic who later became vice-president of a mortgage firm. His father and mother, Susan, were both Protestants and Susan was also Catholic. When Smithson was eight his parents took him on his first major trip, a tour around the United States. The trip made a huge impression on him and he began to love traveling. Some of his other interests as a child were drawing, collecting things, natural history, geology, and dinosaurs according to Smithson, in an interview with Paul Cummings in 1972. Like many teenagers, Smithson found high school boring and was in search of a more stimulating and open environment. In the fall of 1954, his third year of high school, Smithson enrolled in classes at the Art Students League in New York. He received a scholarship for the1955-56 academic year. Smithson’s training at the Art Students League focused on basic foundation courses such as cartooning, life drawing, painting, and composition. Of his time at the Art Students League, Smithson said, “it gave me an opportunity to meet younger people and others who were sort of sympathetic to my outlook.” 1(pg.12).
As he got older, Smithson began investigating the negative...
... middle of paper ...
... Hans Haacke, and Michael Heizer. Before Smithson became history in the art world, artists had hoped to immortalize themselves by creating works that would outlast the span of human life. Even though most of his works were intended to be consumed by time and nature, which made them have a infinite life span, Smithson wanted the exact opposite. His entrance into wastelands and places where no socialization existed were attempts to show how fragile nature is in the industrial world and its powerful ability to defend itself against harmful things.
1. Smithson, Robert, Eugenie Tsai, Cornelia H. Butler, Thomas E. Crow, and Alexander Alberro. Robert Smithson. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Web. 15 Nov. 2011
2. Smithson, Robert. http://www.robertsmithson.com/index_.htm. Ed. Elyse Goldberg and Monika Sziladi. N.p., 2004. Web. 15 Nov. 2011.
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