Smithson, Robert, 1938–73, American sculptor, b. Passaic, N.J. After first making modular, serial sculpture, Smithson began to design large-scale earthworks (see land art) in the 1960s. Smithson reshaped the landscape in a way that recalled both the forces of nature and ancient archaeological sites. His major works in this mode include the Spiral Jetty (1970; Great Salt Lake, Utah) and Broken Circle and Spiral Hill (both 1971; in a quarry in Holland). His work is represented in the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Smithson died in an airplane crash while overseeing one of his earthworks.
See Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings (1996, ed. by J. Flam); Robert Smithson (2004), comprehensive retrospective ed. by E. Tsai; studies by R. C. Hobbs (1981 and 1983), E. Tsai (1991), G. Shapiro (1995), A. Reynolds (2003), R. Graziani (2004), and J. L. Roberts (2004).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.