Robert Smithson: Learning from New Jersey and Elsewhere

Robert Smithson: Learning from New Jersey and Elsewhere

by Ann Reynolds
     
 

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Robert Smithson (1938-1973) produced his best-known work during the 1960s and early 1970s, a period in which the boundaries of the art world and the objectives of art-making were questioned perhaps more consistently and thoroughly than any time before or since. In Robert Smithson, Ann Reynolds elucidates the complexity of Smithson's work and thought by placing them

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Overview

Robert Smithson (1938-1973) produced his best-known work during the 1960s and early 1970s, a period in which the boundaries of the art world and the objectives of art-making were questioned perhaps more consistently and thoroughly than any time before or since. In Robert Smithson, Ann Reynolds elucidates the complexity of Smithson's work and thought by placing them in their historical context, a context greatly enhanced by the vast archival materials that Smithson's widow, Nancy Holt, donated to the Archives of American Art in 1987. The archive provides Reynolds with the remnants of Smithson's working life — magazines,postcards from other artists, notebooks, and perhaps most important, his library — from which she reconstructs the physical and conceptual world that Smithson inhabited. Reynolds explores the relation of Smithson's art-making, thinking about art-making, writing, and interaction with other artists to the articulated ideology and discreet assumptions that determined the parameters of artistic practice of the time.A central focus of Reynolds's analysis is Smithson's fascination with the blind spots at the center of established ways of seeing and thinking about culture. For Smithson, New Jersey was such a blind spot, and he returned there again and again — alone and with fellow artists — to make art that, through its location alone,undermined assumptions about what and, more important, where, art should be. For those who guarded the integrity of the established art world, New Jersey was "elsewhere"; but for Smithson, "elsewheres" were the defining, if often forgotten,locations on the map of contemporary culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A useful and thoroughly entertaining book." Carter Ratcliff Art in America

Library Journal
Basing her study of leading Sixties artist Robert Smithson (1938-73) on a collection of his personal papers and his library, which were donated in 1987 to the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art, Reynolds (art & art history, Univ. of Texas, Austin) focuses on the historical and ideological thinking of the 1960s and early 1970s in an effort to delineate Smithson's complexity, both artistically and philosophically. Smithson challenged the established art world's narrow vision and limited boundaries: for him, New Jersey became the prototype of "elsewhere," a place where he could create works for specific sites while engaging the outside, natural world in the creative process. Reynolds allows the reader to follow Smithson's process of creation through his own notebooks and sketches, his interviews and articles, the images he clipped from magazines, and the photographs he took. This admirable project, however, is studded with jargon and an idiosyncratic approach that may baffle the reader. Extensive notes and epigraphs are included, and the bibliography lists Smithson's library, itself a fascinating study of the artist. For large academic art collections. If Reynolds takes a focused look at one of the major artists of the 1960s, art critic and historian Boettger turns a wide-angle lens upon the era's Earthworks movement and its exponents. His chronological survey covers the early Claes Oldenburg Hole dug in Central Park (1967), the pivotal Dwan Gallery exhibition of Earthworks a year later, and the turbulent artistic, political, and philosophical activities of the late part of the decade. In the process, she touches on Smithson as both stimulus and catalyst for the movement. During this period, there was great ambivalence about the purity of art, the need for a market to support it, and the juxtaposition of the minimalist vision with the monumental effect of the works. With clarity and insight, the author traces the careers of the artists and their relationships to their work, one another, and the world of art critics and dealers. The result is a remarkable combination of insight and intellectual enthusiasm that, rare in a scholarly work, is easily accessible and a pleasure to read. With 12 color and 99 black-and-white images; highly recommended for all art collections, academic libraries, and large public collections as well.-Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262681551
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
10/01/2004
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Reynolds has revitalized not only an important and little-researched moment in Smithson's career, but also—and perhaps more significantly—a crucial event in the history of art practice in the U.S.

and beyond." Alex Alberro, Department of Art History, University of Florida

Lucy Lippard
Twenty-nine years after Smithson's death, entropy hasn't set in yet. Ann Reynolds mines the fertile lode of his archives and lesser known works with meticulous scholarship and rigorous analysis. This book offers a fresh, complex, and compelling view of one of the twentieth century's most provocative (and provoking) artists.

Meet the Author

Ann Reynolds is Associate Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Texas, Austin.

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