The Mythic Scale of History and Labor at Spiral Jetty

ROZEL POINT, Utah — Beginning with childhood visits to the American Museum of Natural History and continuing with excursions to study rock formations throughout his adult life, Robert Smithson cultivated a lifelong obsession with natural (and human) history that explicitly informed his artwork, including the Spiral Jetty, his most well-known piece.

Are the Repo Men Still Coming for Spiral Jetty?

When we last left you in this saga, the Utah Department of Natural Resources had accused Dia Art Foundation of not renewing their lease on Robert Smithson’s iconic work of land art “Spiral Jetty.” As it stood then, the state appeared to be taking a backseat approach to the problem, not immediately putting the land (art) up for auction. But now it seems things have complicated a bit.

A Winter Pilgrimage to Utah’s Spiral Jetty

Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” (1970) is arguably the most famous, least directly experienced work in the Land Art cannon. Most know the work from iconic aerial photographs, some by Smithson’s accompanying text and some by his weird and monotonous film. Built in 1970, the 6,650 tons of black basalt paved in a 1,500 foot long counter-clockwise coil was underwater and invisible for nearly 30 years until the early 2000’s. During the first days of 2011, artist Suzanne Stroebe and I ventured into the frigid landscape of Northern Utah to Rozel Point, the home of Spiral Jetty on the Great Salt Lake. On January 2, Smithson’s birthday (he would have been 73 and coincidentally died in 1973), we visited the site for the afternoon and returned two days later to spend an incredible 23 hours with the jetty and its lunar-like, desolate landscape.