Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spiral Jetty, Smithson

With the beginning of eco-art, the world saw an artistic shift both away and towards those early beginnings of the paleolithic art. These creations were immersed in nature and often composed from the natural elements around them and yet they were no longer two-dimensional creations, but ones that branched into the three-dimensional realm, sometimes marking and other times quietly blending into the world around them.  Artists began to believe that by placing these works in nature, they became infused with something that had been lacking. In the words of Robert Smithson, “Artists themselves are not confined, but their output is. Museums like asylums and jails, have wards and cells-in other words, neutral rooms called ‘galleries.’ A work of art when places in a gallery loses its charge, and becomes a portable object or surface disengaged from the outside world” (Flam). Smithson himself stood by that belief when he created the Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake in Utah in 1970. In his article about “Cultural Confinement” in the world of art, Smithson calls for a return to a realness when it comes to creating art, not the idealized picture that we have come to expect over time. He sides with the approach of getting back to nature as it truly is, not the manicured parks that dot our cities, and for art to no longer aim at being aesthetically appealing due to enforced human points of view, but the natural patterns and tendencies found in nature. “Nature does not proceed in a straight line, it is rather a sprawling development. Nature is never finished,” he says (Flam). His spiral jetty was built from black basalt, limestone, and earth found at that site, a site at which he was inspired to create when he saw the abandoned mining equipment that still dotted it’s shores. Viewing it as a testament of humankind’s inability to rear in nature, he crafted a 15,000 foot spiral earthen structure that juts out into the lake, having pulled the idea for the shape from the molecular structure of the salt crystals that coat the rocks on the water’s edge (Kleiner, 1014). Smithson’s Spiral Jetty shows the mentality that is influencing artists to get back to the roots that were our early ancestors only options of creation. While not completely condemning the “never-never land called the ‘art world,’” Smithson and his creations show the possible richness that comes from decreasing one’s emphasis on the human element in nature. 

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