Rocks and Mirror Square II

Robert Smithson
Basalt rocks and mirrors
Each mirror: 14 x 48 in. (36 x 122 cm) Overall dimensions: 14 x 86 x 86 in. (36 x 220 x 220 cm) irreg.
Collection National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Eight mirrors, buttressed from both sides by basalt rocks, converge in a square formation. The rocks were gathered from an area near Paterson, New Jersey, an area renowned for trap rock quarries. The rocks are the primary “substance” of the work, yet their structural purpose lies in service to the mirrors, or the “non-substance.” In the center of the square a portion of the gallery floor is left bare, revealing the rocks’ impermanent placement both in the gallery and in the site from where they came. In the relatively simple construction, Smithson poses many questions about the origin, perception, and substance of art.


Scholarly Text

Robert Smithson’s Crystal Lattices: Mapping the Shapes of Time

Amelia Barikin

Rocks and Mirror Square II (1971) is constructed from eight, identically sized mirrors, placed back to back against each other to form a mirrored square shored up with basalt rocks. The granular irregularities of the basalt are juxtaposed against the crisp geometry of the structure as a whole. The mirrors are entirely supported by the rocks. In Robert Smithson’s words, the “pressure of the raw material against the mirrored surface is what provides its stability."1 In melding the deep, geological time of the Earth with what Smithson thought of as the timelessness of mirrors, a complex temporal dialectic emerges.

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