Nonsite "Line of Wreckage," Bayonne, New Jersey

Robert Smithson
Painted aluminum container with broken concrete, framed map, and photo panels
Cage: 59 x 70 x 12 1/2 in. (149.9 x 177.8 x 31.8 cm); three panels: 3 3/4 x 49 in. (9.5 x 124.5 cm) each
Collection Milwaukee Art Museum Purchase, with National Endowment for the Arts Matching Funds

Broken pieces of concrete gathered from a destroyed New Jersey highway are arranged inside a steel box with horizontal openings, alongside a map and a series of photographs on the wall providing geographic and visual context. Smithson illuminates the forgotten, displaying post-industrial rubble as if it were an ancient ruin. The result is both anticlimactic and tragic. Visually mundane, the site is afforded our attention within the gallery setting—and its material remains demand a reckoning with the pervasion of loss in an otherwise invisible place.


Writing by the Artist

A Provisional Theory of Nonsites

Robert Smithson

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.

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