Robert Smithson
American artist



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Robert Smithson
American artist
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Birth Date

January 02, 1938

Death Date

July 20, 1973

Arty Fact

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Robert Smithson was definitely an oddball. But then again, what artist isn’t? 

Smithson’s art has always been somewhat unconventional. When he was a young collage maker, he was highly influenced by the homoerotic drawings and photos in Beefcake Magazine, which is pretty understandable. I mean the men in those magazines were quite the hunksicles. With a fascination for sexy magazines, Smithson started his artistic career as a Pop artist. I suppose eventually though he felt this type of art to be nothing more than a hollow shell and turned to his childhood memories for inspiration.    

Smithson was influenced by his surrounding landscape from a young age. As a child, Smithson was often driven through Jersey to take art classes in New York. Say what you want about Jersey now, but back when Smithson was a child the New Jersey landscape consisted of many dumps and trash-filled fields. This imagery likely fueled his fascination in the destruction of the environment.

And influence it did. Some of Smithson’s earliest earthwork pieces were made on industrial waste sites (like the hot tub from the Jersey Shore house).  Probably not the best choice for his health, but this decision appears to align with his ideologies. It would seem that Smithson was a bit of a pessimist. He saw life and energy as constantly in decay. This obsession with entropy informed much of his artwork and ultimately he loved to witness the natural deterioration of his own creations. Nonattachment for the win, Smithson clearly would have made a great Buddhist. While he loved to see his work become one with the earth, us modern day Smithson fans are unfortunately left with little of his art still around. Luckily, Smithson was an avid photographer and documented his work extensively.

Smithson was one of the OG land and environmental artists. While it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the original environmental artists were all tree-loving hippies, this is very far from the truth. In fact, this artistic movement was born out of a disdain for the art world and a hatred of the power of capitalism to shape our beliefs surrounding the value of art.

So Smithson proceeded to spend the rest of his career playing in the dirt. Not a bad gig if you ask me. Smithson lived a pretty epic life, and his death was no exception. While surveying sites for an upcoming project, Smithson’s plane crashed in the middle of nowhere Texas. I guess he was right about the whole destruction and decay thing after all.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Robert Smithson

Robert Smithson (January 2, 1938 – July 20, 1973) was an American artist known for sculpture and land art who often used drawing and photography in relation to the spatial arts. His work has been internationally exhibited in galleries and museums and is held in public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Tate Modern, London, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. He was one of the founders of the Land Art movement whose best known work is the Spiral Jetty.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Robert Smithson.