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Robert Smithson at the Whitney Museum


Art Dirt Redux mp3 (rough)

Spiral Jetty has such an iconic place in American art -- for some nearly a fetish -- it's easy to forget Robert Smithson was very much at home within the confines of interior spaces making more traditional objects and images. The retrospective of his work opening today at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York is beautifully and thoughtfully installed so that even his most esoteric meanderings into visualizing entropy are provided a context through his films, drawings, paintings, collages and even his slide lectures.

It's hard to believe this is the first comprehensive retrospective of his work in America and this time lag says more about the ineptitude of American cultural institutions than it does about the inaccessibility of his work. All blunt objects and jagged edges, his work ran afoul of sexual politics. Smithson didn't have a sensitive side and probably benefited a great deal from women like Nancy Holt and Virginia Dwan who softened him up abit. Then again had he lived to a ripe old age perhaps we wouldn't have monstrosities like the new new MoMA.

The Whitney web site is predictably scant on any online information about the exhibition and the Smithson Estate is famously protective of the images they control (particularly frustrating given how much found media he used in his work) but there are a few resources:

MoCA in LA, where the exhibition originated.

Dia Beacon has a short but good essay by Anne Rorimer about his work in their collection, which includes Spiral Jetty

James Cohan Gallery