Earth art is just one of those art movements that drives museums to drink. After all, how is one supposed to display or preserve often large scale natural works based on the concept of organic decay? For this reason, many earth artists sometimes seem to be neglected by major museums, in favor of their more easily exhibited contemporaries. However, this summer the Whitney is bucking that trend by presenting the first comprehensive American retrospective of the work of Robert Smithson.


Smithson is most well known for two things. First for dying young in a Texas plane crash in 1973. Second for creating one of the major works of the earth art movement, Spiral Jetty, a 1,500 foot long and 15 foot wide rock coil on the shores of Utah's Great Salt Lake. The Whitney show includes films and photographs of this major work, as well as of Smithson's other earth art projects. However it also highlights the wider range of Smithson's career, with over 150 paintings, works on paper, essays, photographs, objects, and films.

The exhibition will be on display through October 23rd and will be accompanied by Floating Island, an unrealized piece by Smithson presented by the Whitney, in tandem with the arts organization Minetta Brook. On two weekends this fall (Sept 17 - 18 and Sept 24- 25), a man-made "island," consisting of a tug boat pulling a large barge loaded with earth and planted with various trees and shrubs according to Smithson's specifications, will travel around Manhattan's harbor. The project will be visible from various points along the city shorelines.

Also, on July 7th at 8pm, the artist Banks Violette, whose work is also currently on view at the Whitney, will give a talk on how Smithson's ideas of entropy, place, and modern structures have affected his own work.