Robert Smithson: Abstract Cartography

We are very pleased to announce the exhibition Robert Smithson: Abstract Cartography launches this summer at Marian Goodman Gallery New York, open from June 24 to August 20, 2021.

Abstract Cartography focuses on a crucial period in Robert Smithson’s development: the years 1966 to 1971. These pivotal five years saw Smithson develop what he describes as his “inklings of earthworks”  and coincided with huge technological advancements, incorporating the moon landings and the invention of the jumbo jet, as well as the birth of modern environmentalism.

The catalyst for Smithson’s development of these ideas was a 1966 symposium at Yale University in which he discussed the idea of the city as a “crystalline network.” The symposium’s audience included a representative of the architectural consulting firm Tippetts-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton, which was working on a proposal for a new airport between Dallas and Fort Worth. Immediately after the talk, Smithson was invited to join their team “to figure out what an airport is. I invented this job for myself as artist-consultant.” Arguably the first artist-consultant to industry, Smithson was fascinated by the airport as a non-place that provided fertile ground for thinking and new ideas. For two years, he studied maps, surveys, reports, specifications, and construction models to explore what an airport might be.

Abstract Cartography brings together key works from this research, alongside a laboratory of Smithson’s sculptural thinking, and a room of maps and charted conceptual islands.  As zones of transitory experience, Smithson saw airports and islands as existing on the fringes, which were far more interesting to him than the center. The potential of seeing art from the air opened Smithson’s ideas to mapping, perspective and scale, and he became fascinated by the ways maps are used to define our thinking. Smithson noted that “the map has exercised a fascination over the minds of artists.” He pointed to Jorge Luis Borges and Lewis Carroll who described maps as fictions, approximations of reality always pointing elsewhere.

The careful selection of works traces Smithson’s radical rethinking of what art could be and where it could be found. It includes significant loans from The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, as well as important works from the Foundation previously held in the personal collection of the artist Nancy Holt that have not previously been displayed in public.

Abstract Cartography is accompanied by an illustrated newspaper reproducing a selection of Smithson’s writings, available in person from Marian Goodman Gallery.

Robert Smithson with Map of New Jersey, 1968

Photograph: Nancy Holt

© Holt/Smithson Foundation, Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

Archived News

2021 Research Fellow: Scout Hutchinson

We are pleased to announce the second of our 2021 Holt/Smithson Foundation Research Fellowship awardees: Scout Hutchinson.

Scout Hutchinson is a recent graduate of the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU, where she earned an MA in Art History. She has provided curatorial support to art institutions including deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Massachusetts; the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; the Jewish Museum in New York; and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum at the University of Oklahoma, where she is currently a Mellon Curatorial Intern.

2021 Research Fellow: Ali Ismail Karimi

We are pleased to announce the first of our 2021 Holt/Smithson Foundation Research Fellowship awardees: Ali Ismail Karimi.

Ali Ismail Karimi’s Research Fellowship will focus on Robert Smithson’s 1966 works Grave Mounds with Object and Proposal for a Monument on the Red Sea and the relationship of Smithson’s work to the landscapes of the Middle East.

"Revolve" Screening in The Kitchen's Carlotta Schoolman Video Viewing Room

Nancy Holt's video Revolve is available to stream online through The Kitchen's Video Viewing Room celebrating the work of Carlotta Schoolman. Founded in 1971, The Kitchen is one of New York City’s oldest nonprofit spaces, showing innovative work by emerging and established artists across disciplines. To celebrate their 50th Anniversary, The Kitchen is hosting a series of conversations with artists with accompanying Video Viewing Rooms.