Asphalt Rundown

Robert Smithson
Cava dei Selce, Rome, Italy
Asphalt, earth
Sculptural Event

The first of Smithson’s major outdoor earthworks intended to exist exclusively outside, ​Asphalt Rundown​ is a demonstration of what Smithson called the “crystalline structure of time.” He argued that time does not pass so much as it builds upon itself. In a quarry outside of Rome, Smithson poured a truckload of hot asphalt down a steep embankment, which cooled and hardened as it fell. The resulting sculpture can be seen as time frozen, mid-flow, or as yet another sedimentary layer in the infinite accumulation of time.


Scholarly Text

Asphalt Rundown

Serena Solin

In 1969 and 1970, Robert Smithson created three “pour” sculptures that demonstrated his mastery of a difficult and deadly medium: entropy. In all three, an industrial material was prepared and poured downhill at a remote or neglected site and left to solidify. The first of these sculptures, Asphalt Rundown, was a dramatic release of hot, viscous black material down the shorn crags of the defunct quarry, intended—and perceived—as a “powerful, annihilating gesture,” in the words of Frank Stella.1

See Also