“Spiral Jetty” is Utah’s most iconic land sculpture. Located on the Great Salt Lake’s northeastern shore, the “Spiral Jetty” is 1,500 feet long, built with 6,500 tons of basalt and seen only during low-water periods. Constructed in 1970, it was artist Robert Smithson’s most important work. Smithson, a pioneer in artistic earthworks, believed in the possibilities offered through direct manipulation of the land. In honing his theories, he revisited the classic writings of the Picturesque movement and exposed principles that put a landscape and its people at odds. His integration of man and land gave meaning, ownership and visceral depth to views—a concept foreign to modern art at the time.
Despite Smithson’s early death in a 1973 plane crash, and with so few of his pieces surviving, artists have embraced Smithson’s legacy and paid homage to him in recent years. The UMFA has dubbed this little-discussed phenomenon “The Smithson Effect”—Smithson’s pervasive presence on contemporary art since the 1990s.
UMFA’s largest contemporary-art exhibition to date, The Smithson Effect, will include artist collaborations and the work of 23 contemporary artists, including Adam Bateman, Walead Beshty, Matthew Buckingham, Tom Burr, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Peter Coffin (whose “Untitled (Rainbow)” is pictured) and more. The curation focuses on Smithson’s fundamentals: entropy, land use and anti-monuments. And to demonstrate his diverse effect, the exhibit includes a variety of media, such as sculpture, painting, photography, film, sound art and installation.