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Contemporary Art – Conceptual Land Art by Robert Smithson

November 17, 2011

Conceptual Art is another form of Contemporary art; the term describes art that no longer took form of conventional ideas. The idea involved in the art takes priority over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Artists would use whatever media they found appropriate to their idea rather than fit their ideas into a painting or sculpture. These art works are often referred to as installations and usually have a process behind them, such as a set of instructions. The Conceptual Art movement came along during 1967 to 1978; it shows aspects of contemporary art through performance and installation art, net art and digital art though many of these artists do not associate themselves with contemporary art. Land art is a form of this, as many artists began working directly with the land and made installations with these. Artists found different ways of creating this whether it is moulding the land to fit their needs, collecting rocks/stones and then creating a sculpture or simply walking up and down to make a mark.

Robert Smithson I find Robert Smithson’s work particularly interesting. “Spiral Jetty” is probably one of the world’s most recognised pieces of land art and there is no question why.  

It was built entirely from mud, salt crystals, basalt rocks, earth and water on the north-eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  The “Spiral Jetty” forms a 1,500-foot-long (460 m), 15-foot-wide (4.6 m) counterclockwise coil jutting from the shore of the lake which is only visible when the level of the Great Salt Lake falls below an elevation of 4,197.8 feet (1,279.5 m). When Smithson constructed this magnificent piece, the water in the lake was unusually low due to a drought and unfortunately within a few years the water had returned to its typical level, immersing the “Jetty” for three decades until another drought in 2004. This would not last long due to a snow pack which somewhat immersed the “Jetty” yet again. In 2010 the “Jetty” was walkable again until June of this year when it became completely submerged. Originally black basalt rock against ruddy water, it is now largely white against pink due to salt encrustation and lower water levels.

I find this piece truly amazing and would love to witness it for myself as I feel that it would be a worthwhile experience and the best way to experience the “Jetty”. He is recognised as a pioneer of the land art movement, as he is not afraid to challenge the earth. His work as influenced many, the palm tree islands in Dubai for one. I think his works says a lot for his character as well as the rest of the world, why should we not be able to sculpt our lives into how we see them rather than what we are given? Everyone should take notice of works like this and appreciate what has gone into them; he has created an attraction that will never be forgotten.

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