Spiral Jetty in Red Salt Water

Robert Smithson
ca. 1970
Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA
Graphite on paper
9 x 11 7/8 in. (22.9 x 30.2 cm)
Collection MoMA

One of many preliminary drawings for Smithson’s most famous work, Spiral Jetty, this particular sketch calls attention to the striking red hue of Great Salt Lake. The color is a result of salt-tolerant algae and bacteria, a feature that reminded Smithson of the primordial sea. While the drawing appears as a simplified plan for the iconic earthwork, it is not merely a means to an end. Rather, this sketch—along with countless others—exemplifies Smithson’s ongoing meditation on the infinitude of time, change, and spiritual desire as represented by the spiral form.

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