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MARCH 10 –JULY 3, 2011

Experience The Smithson Effect, the most ambitious contemporary art exhibition ever organized by the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Through sculpture, video, photography, installation, and sound art, The Smithson Effect will introduce you to twenty-three of the world's leading contemporary artists, whose work is influenced by the legacy of artist Robert Smithson (1938–1973).

Presenting Sponsor


About the exhibition

Robert Smithson (1938–1973) was one of a number of artists in the late 1960s and 1970s who moved out into the vast, open spaces of the American West, using the land itself as an artistic medium. While he remains best known for his pioneering earthworks-the most famous is Spiral Jetty in Utah's Great Salt Lake—Smithson's legacy extends far beyond his remarkable interventions in the landscape.

The Smithson Effect aims to narrate a widely recognized, yet little discussed story: that of Smithson's pervasive presence in contemporary art since the 1990s. The exhibition underscores his significance for a generation of artists whose work is informed by his radical approach to making and disseminating art: especially crucial is Smithson's rethinking of the place of art's production (from the artist's studio to the unbounded landscape) and the place of art's exhibition (from the site of the unbounded landscape to the ‘nonsite' of the gallery). The most ambitious contemporary art exhibition ever mounted by the UMFA, The Smithson Effect presents a dramatic range of objects-sculptures, paintings, photographs, films, videos, installations, and works of sound art-which register Smithson's influential mode of working across various mediums.

Comprising works by twenty-three international artists and artist collaboratives, The Smithson Effect is organized around core ideas in Smithson's practice that have critically shaped contemporary art, including entropy, land use, anti-monuments, natural history, and the materiality of language. The exhibition also features a number of artists who focus on earthworks by Smithson that have been lost or destroyed; these missing works serve as points of departure for grappling with the legacy of early site-oriented art and of 1960s counterculture more broadly. Such attempts to reconnect with Smithson and his lost work speak to a desire to transform unrealized ideas of the past into new possibilities for art making and activism in the present.



Rotating Slideshow: SLIDE 1 / Sam Durant, Partially Buried 1960s 70s Dystopia Revealed (Mick Jagger at Altamont) & Utopia Reflected (Wavy Gravy at Woodstock), 1998, mirrors, dirt, amplified audio system, audio CD, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, CA / Tacita Dean, Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah, 1999, 35mm slide projection, courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris and Frith Street Gallery, London / Tom Burr, Golden Age, 2009, wood, steel-hinges, mirrored Plexiglas, give copies of “Doctor Make Me Beautiful,” courtesy the artist, collection of Geraldina Polverelli, Rome /  SLIDE 2 / Matthew Buckingham, The Six Grandfathers, Paha Sapa, In the Year 502,002 C.E., 2002, black and white digital c-print and wall text, © Matthew Buckingham, Courtesy Murray Guy, New York / Rene´e Green, Partially-Buried, 1996, film still, courtesy of the artist, Free Agent Media, and Elizabeth Dee, New-York / Florian Maier Aichen, One day at Spiral Jetty, 2009, silver gelatin print, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los-Angeles, CA / SLIDE 3 /  Tom Burr, endlessly repeated gesture, 2009, wood, metal brackets and bolts, carpeting, mirrored tile, courtesy the artist and Bortolami Gallery, New York / Sam Durant, Live-Rust #1 (Woodshed), 1998, graphite on paper, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los-Angeles, CA / Rene´e Green, Partially Buried Continued,1997, film still, courtesy of the artist, Free Agent Media, and Elizabeth Dee, New York






the smithson effect links

Featured Artists

Related Programming

One on One: Jill Dawsey on Vik Muniz's Spiral Jetty after Robert Smithson

Land Art Introduction

ARTLandish: Land Art, Landscape, and the Environment


Peter-Coffin, Untitled (Rainbow), 2005, 30 Photographs, T-Pins, courtesy of the artist
Sam-Durant, Altamont 1969, 1998, graphite on paper, courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los-Angeles

Mark Dion, Travels of William Bartram Reconsidered (seeds, fungi, and invertebrates), 2008, wooden box with mirror, specimen vials with alcohol and various organic specimens, courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar, New York













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