Bound to the Earth: Art, Materiality, and the Natural World
Robert Smithson’s Mono Lake Nonsite (Cinders Near Black Point) (1968) is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego from November 21, 2019 to March 19 2020 in the exhibition Bound to the Earth: Art, Materiality, and the Natural World, drawn from the museum’s collection.
Bound to the Earth: Art, Materiality, and the Natural World looks at the ways artists have addressed and represented the landscape. Many of the selected works are made with earthen materials such clay and tar, sticks and soil; others focus on the natural resources that constitute our environment. The exhibition explores how in the late 1960s artists began siting their sculptures, installations, and performances outdoors, engaging with the natural world in contrast to the space of the gallery. These works of land art varied from minimal and ephemeral gestures in the landscape to large movements of the earth.
Mono Lake Nonsite (Cinders Near Black Point) comprises two parts: a steel container holding cinders collected from near Black Point, Mono Lake and a map photostat. Mono Lake is an ancient saline lake located in Mono County, California. In his 1968 essay A Provisional Theory of Non-Sites, published in The Writings of Robert Smithson [p364], Smithson opens his text by stating: “By drawing a diagram, a ground plan of a house, a street plan to the location of a site, or a topographic map, one draws a ‘logical two dimensional picture.’ A ‘logical picture’ differs from a natural or realistic picture in that it rarely looks like the thing it stands for. It is a two dimensional analogy or metaphor – A is Z.” He continues to describe that a nonsite is “an indoor earthwork […] a three dimensional logical picture that is abstract yet it represents an actual site” [original emphasis].
Robert Smithson, Mono Lake Nonsite (Cinders Near Black Point) (1968)
Painted steel container, cinders and map photostat
Site map 40-1/4″ x 40-1/4″; container 7″x 39-3/4″ x 39-3/4″
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
Photograph: Pablo Mason
Installation image of Bound to the Earth: Art, Materiality, and the Natural World, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 2019-2020
Art © Holt/Smithson Foundation, licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York