Hypothetical Islands

Dec 2, 2020 – Jan 9, 2021
Solo Exhibition

Marian Goodman Gallery London and Holt/Smithson Foundation are pleased to announce the first solo exhibition of Robert Smithson in the U.K. Hypothetical Islands will be on view from December 2, 2020 to January 9, 2021.

Hypothetical Islands pays attention to Smithson’s enduring interest in islands. It presents over fifty works spanning 1961 to 1973, many of which are being exhibited for the first time in many decades. For Smithson, islands were speculative sites showing the constantly changing surface of our world and the limits of human knowledge. Some of his islands are locations for sculptural invention, others are sites investigating the formation of landscape through earthworks and sculptures. The selection of works will move from mobile to spiral islands, through forking jetties, meanders, concrete seas and rising volcanoes.

An autodidact, Smithson's interests in travel, cartography, geology, architectural ruins, prehistory, philosophy, science fiction, popular culture and language spiral through his work. In his short and prolific life, Smithson produced paintings, drawings, sculptures, architectural schemes, films, photographs, writings, earthworks and all the stops between. From his landmark earthworks to his 'quasi-minimalist' sculptures, Nonsites, writings, proposals, collages, detailed drawings and radical rethinking of landscape, Smithson's ideas are profoundly urgent for our times. By exploring the conceptual and physical boundaries of landscape Smithson raised questions about our place in the world, their relevance heightened as the dangers of global warming move ever closer.

Smithson’s conceptual islands explore time, limits, scale and human collaboration with geology. The exhibition includes a continuous film program focusing on Smithson’s earthworks and interest in geological agency, featuring two previously unseen 1971 films—Bob with Books and Mangrove Ring. A careful selection of drawings demonstrate his unrivaled capacity for invention. In 1970 he explained, “I like landscapes that suggest prehistory. As an artist it is sort of interesting to take on the persona of a geological agent where man actually becomes part of that process rather than overcoming it.” Three years later he declared, “Imagine yourself in Central Park one million years ago. You would be standing on a vast ice sheet, a 4,000-mile glacial wall, as much as 2,000 feet thick. Alone on the vast glacier, you would not sense its slow crushing, scraping, ripping movement as it advanced south, leaving great masses of rock debris in its wake.” 

Hypothetical Islands is accompanied by a simultaneous exhibition, Primordial Beginnings, at Galerie Marian Goodman, Paris. Both exhibitions will feature rarely seen works from the personal collection of the artist Nancy Holt (1938-2014). Holt married Smithson in 1963 and managed his Estate between 1973 and 2014. 

Click here to view an Online Viewing Room presented by Marian Goodman Gallery.

About the Exhibitions:

Primordial Beginnings and Hypothetical Islands and are organized by Philipp Kaiser, Chief Executive Director of Artists and Programs at Marian Goodman Galleries, and Lisa Le Feuvre, Executive Director of Holt/Smithson Foundation. About Holt/Smithson Foundation and Marian Goodman Gallery In February 2020 Holt/Smithson Foundation and Marian Goodman Gallery announced their partnership. The partnership between Holt/Smithson Foundation and Marian Goodman Gallery marks a return. In 1965 Marian Goodman was a founder of Multiples, Inc., a landmark project publishing prints, multiples, and books by leading American artists -including Robert Smithson. An exhibition dedicated to Multiples, Inc. launches at Marian Goodman Gallery, New York in January 2021.

Exhibition Reviews

Beth Williamson on Hypothetical Islands in Studio International

Nathan Jones on Hypothetical Islands in SNAP Editions

Hettie Judah on Hypothetical Islands in The Guardian

Robert Smithson, Island Project (1970)
Graphite on paper
19 x 24 in. (48.3 x 61 cm)
© Holt/Smithson Foundation, licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

More Exhibitions

Teresita Fernández / Robert Smithson

Jul 5 – Oct 28, 2024
Two-person Exhibition

This July, SITE SANTA FE, in collaboration with artist Teresita Fernández and Holt/Smithson Foundation, presents the exhibition Teresita Fernández / Robert Smithson. Artist-led and conceptually driven, Teresita Fernández / Robert Smithson is a subjective, intergenerational conversation between two practices, pulling the past into the present. The exhibition critically considers entanglements between place, site, seeing, and deep time through the artists’ mutual engagement with material intelligence, geological agency, and cartographic fictions.