Robert Smithson (1938-1973) produced his best-known work during the 1960s and early 1970s, a period in which the boundaries of the art world and the objectives of art-making were questioned perhaps more consistently and thoroughly than any time before or since. In Robert Smithson, Ann Reynolds elucidates the complexity of Smithson's work and thought by placing them in their historical context, a context greatly enhanced by the vast archival materials that Smithson's widow, Nancy Holt, donated to the Archives of American Art in 1987. The archive provides Reynolds with the remnants of Smithson's working life—magazines, postcards from other artists, notebooks, and perhaps most important, his library—from which she reconstructs the physical and conceptual world that Smithson inhabited. Reynolds explores the relation of Smithson's art-making, thinking about art-making, writing, and interaction with other artists to the articulated ideology and discreet assumptions that determined the parameters of artistic practice of the time.
A central focus of Reynolds's analysis is Smithson's fascination with the blind spots at the center of established ways of seeing and thinking about culture. For Smithson, New Jersey was such a blind spot, and he returned there again and again—alone and with fellow artists—to make art that, through its location alone, undermined assumptions about what and, more important, where, art should be. For those who guarded the integrity of the established art world, New Jersey was "elsewhere"; but for Smithson, "elsewheres" were the defining, if often forgotten, locations on the map of contemporary culture.
About the Author
Ann Reynolds is Associate Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Texas, Austin.
"A useful and thoroughly entertaining book.", Carter Ratcliff, Art in America
"Reynolds has revitalized not only an important and little-researched moment in Smithson's career, but also—and perhaps more significantly—a crucial event in the history of art practice in the U.S. and beyond."
—Alex Alberro, Department of Art History, University of Florida
"This is a breathtaking book. Listen to history as it stands up and shouts. Feel the mind spin and snap as Reynolds's analysis of the hidden world of Smithson's previously silent archive grows exponentially. No worn out platitudes of contemporary theory and art history here—instead, showering crystals of original material and virtuoso revelation. Robert Smithson: Learning From New Jersey and Elsewhere sets a new standard of scholarship. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Smithson, the sixties, contemporary art, film studies, and the roots of critical postmodernism."
—Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, New York University, and author of How Like A Leaf: An Interview with Donna Haraway
"Twenty-nine years after Smithson's death, entropy hasn't set in yet. Ann Reynolds mines the fertile lode of his archives and lesser known works with meticulous scholarship and rigorous analysis. This book offers a fresh, complex, and compelling view of one of the twentieth century's most provocative (and provoking) artists."
—Lucy Lippard, author of On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art and Place