land and see

May 20, 2020

I’ve always had a fascination with land art, Richard Long’s ephemeral line in a Wiltshire field, to more permanent installations like Andy Goldsworthy’s massive red sandstone arches in Scotland. This morning, I looked at images of Robert Smithson‘s Spiral Jetty, and how much its changed since it was created in 1970. Built during a drought, out of mud, salt, crystals, basalt and dirt, the Spiral Jetty measures 1500 feet long and stretches far out into the Great Salt Lake. For 30 years, the work remained fully submerged, due to a rise in water levels. A drought in 2004 meant it could re-emerge. The New York Times called it, “the most famous work of American art that almost nobody has ever seen in the flesh.” Smithson –– who died in a plane crash three years after he built it –– described the work as, “the edge of the sun, a boiling curve, an explosion rising into a fiery prominence.” How all these works connect with the land around them, whether they stand out or blend in, (or in this case, completely disappear) and the extent to which they’re affected by changing conditions, is what makes them interesting. For Smithson, the idea of entropy was at the core of this project, and all his work. Natural decay is part of the piece, and what renders it, and all land art, transient. But as long as the land exists, so will, in some form, the art that is built upon it. “Entropy is a condition that is moving toward a gradual equilibrium,” said Smithson. Eventually, land and art are one.


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