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Robert Smithson
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    (January 2, 1938-July 20, 1973)
    Born in Passaic, New Jersey
    Known for creating monumental earthworks
    Best-known creation was ‘The Spiral Jetty,’ a 1,500-foot long coiled stone pier extending into the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point (1970)
    Other works include ‘Asphalt Rundown’ (1969), ‘Partially Buried Woodshed’ (1970) and ‘Broken Circle/Spiral Hill’ (1971)
    Ironically (considering the scale of his earthworks), he started as a minimalist sculptor.
    While building ‘Spiral Jetty,’ he had trouble finding a contractor to haul 6500 tons of rocks into the middle of nowhere and then drag them into the lake.
    ‘The Spiral Jetty’ disappeared for two and a half decades when the water level of the Great Salt Lake rose.
    Even when ‘Spiral Jetty’ is above water, it is not very accessible, located about 20 miles from the nearest town (and last restrooms).
    His childhood pediatrician was poet/doctor William Carlos Williams.
    He was inspired by ancient earthworks, such as Stonehenge in England and the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio.
    He died in a plane crash while scouting sites for a future earthwork.
    When ‘Spiral Jetty’ re-emerged following a drought (1999), salt had encrusted the spiral’s basalt rocks, changing their color from black to white, which might have pleased Smithson, who was fascinated by entropy and decay.
    ARTNews named him one of the 25 most influential artists of the 20th century.

Credit: C. Fishel

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