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Topics in American Art since 1945

By Lawrence Alloway | Go to book overview

ROBERT SMITHSON'S
DEVELOPMENT

Smithson's sculpture of 1964-68 is regarded as belonging with Minimal art, but this view needs qualification, partly because of the way in which his later development throws retroactive light on earlier pieces. The reason for linking him with Minimal art is not hard to find: he made the connection himself. In an article of 1966, for example, he writes particularly about Flavin, Judd, LeWitt, and Morris 1. and in 1968 discusses the writings of Andre, Flavin, Judd, LeWitt, Morris, and Ad Reinhardt. 2. These names do not exhaust his references, but they amount to a primary emphasis. Aside from the evidence of his interests and associates, what about the style of his work in relation to the requirements of Minimal art? The canon certainly required a sculpture of neutral units, either modular or monolithic. Another expectation was inertness, a denial of visual animation and contrast. A third factor, proposed by Lucy Lippard, was the desire of the artists to "compete visually with their non-art surroundings" by means of "projects that would in fact create a new landscape made of sculpture rather than decorated by sculpture." 3. Whether this environmental impulse belongs properly to Minimal art can be contested if, as Lippard suggests, it begins with "Tony Smith's long visualized 'artificial landscapes without cultural precedent.' " 4. Actually Smith makes big sculptures, sometimes at architectural scale, but their solid fabrication separates them fundamentally from the concept of a "landscape made of sculpture." Lippard's extrapolation of Minimal art to Earthworks is problematic in

____________________
SOURCE: From Artforum, XI/3 (November, 1973), 52-61.
1.
Robert Smithson, "Entropy and the New Monuments," Artforum, June, 1966, pp. 26-31.
2.
Robert Smithson, "A Museum of Language in the Vicinity of Art," Art International, March, 1968, pp. 21-27.
3.
Lucy Lippard, "10 Structurists in 20 Paragraphs," Minimal Art, Haags Gemeentemuseum, 1968, p. 30.
4.
Ibid.

-221-

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