A Masterpiece of Land Art: Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty
Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake of Utah, 1970

Today, Artsper analyses with you one of the most emblematic works of Land Art, a movement that appeared at the end of the ‘60s in the United States and draws its inspiration from natural elements.

The concept of Land Art intends to be the ultimate extension of the artistic practice outside conventional spaces (galleries, museums, institutions).  The interventions are often punctual, but they sometimes last in time, up to permanently modifying the site where they are built. They are a (distant) echo of the teachings of the Black Mountain College from the 1950s, that wanted a world freed of the constraints of social space.

Smithson’s first works were already in relationship with nature, as is his 1970 project, Spiral Jetty, a 457-meter long counterclockwise coil made of basalt rocks jutting from the shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Depending on periods of draught, the sculpture is sometimes submerged and sometimes above water level, and it can be seen as an allegory of the Creation, a universal symbol linked to the worship of the Sun and to infinity. It offers the experience of a constant shift of its center, as the work is in perpetual motion.

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake of Utah, 1970
Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake of Utah, 1970

Depending on the water level of the Great Salt Lake, an unusable site, Spiral Jetty offers the viewer multiple faces, reminding of its creator, who died tragically three years after the inauguration of his work. Spiral Jetty was financed at the time by the Virginia Dawn Gallery from New York. The spiral emerges, according to every year’s conditions, as a reminder of the power shared by Man and Nature.

In the 70s, before his death, Robert Smithson wrote and produced a 32-minute film about the creation of the spiral, a work of art in itself, in which the artist explains his approach.

You may also like….