Spiral Jetty

Description

Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is one of the seminal works of the 1970s art movement known as Land Art. The artwork is a 1500’ manmade jetty that extends into the Great Salt Lake from the northern shore and coils around itself in a counterclockwise direction. The jetty is 15’ wide and, to this day, it is open to visitors to walk along.
This work’s position in the Great Salt Lake is central to how it can be understood. The spiral design was inspired by the molecular structure of salt crystals that coat the rocks along the shore that Smithson encountered during his first visit to this site. Smithson was interested in the unusual red color of the Great Salt Lake, which is caused by the presence of salt-tolerant bacteria. The work is at times completely submerged underwater, depending on the water level of the Great Salt Lake.
Smithson was interested in the proximity of this work (only 16 miles) to the Golden Spike National Historic Site, which memorialized the location where the Union Railroad met the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869. This location undoubtedly calls to mind the early travelers and artists who ventured west and first documented these landscapes. Like the cross-country railroad, Spiral Jetty demonstrates the power of human agency to irreversibly alter nature. Because this work is difficult to access and cannot be experienced within a museum space, Smithson’s Spiral Jetty reproduces the experience of discovery upon first seeing the work. The significance of the moment of discovery is crucial to understandings of the American landscape during the era of Manifest Destiny and increased westward travel.

MetaData

Dublin Core

Title

Spiral Jetty

Subject

Smithson, Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake

Description

Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty is one of the seminal works of the 1970s art movement known as Land Art. The artwork is a 1500’ manmade jetty that extends into the Great Salt Lake from the northern shore and coils around itself in a counterclockwise direction. The jetty is 15’ wide and, to this day, it is open to visitors to walk along.
This work’s position in the Great Salt Lake is central to how it can be understood. The spiral design was inspired by the molecular structure of salt crystals that coat the rocks along the shore that Smithson encountered during his first visit to this site. Smithson was interested in the unusual red color of the Great Salt Lake, which is caused by the presence of salt-tolerant bacteria. The work is at times completely submerged underwater, depending on the water level of the Great Salt Lake.
Smithson was interested in the proximity of this work (only 16 miles) to the Golden Spike National Historic Site, which memorialized the location where the Union Railroad met the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869. This location undoubtedly calls to mind the early travelers and artists who ventured west and first documented these landscapes. Like the cross-country railroad, Spiral Jetty demonstrates the power of human agency to irreversibly alter nature. Because this work is difficult to access and cannot be experienced within a museum space, Smithson’s Spiral Jetty reproduces the experience of discovery upon first seeing the work. The significance of the moment of discovery is crucial to understandings of the American landscape during the era of Manifest Destiny and increased westward travel.

Creator

Robert Smithson, American, 1938-1973

Source

Dia Art Foundation

Publisher

N/A

Date

1970

Contributor

Kathleen Voight

Rights

Holt-Smithson Foundation

Relation

Other Media

Format

18000 x 180 in.

Language

En-US

Type

Land Art

Identifier

1999.014

Coverage

Date Created

February 22, 2018

Date Modified

April 6, 2018

Access Rights

Available to the public for noncommercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States copyright laws

License

N/A

Has Part

N/A

Is Referenced By

N/A

References

N/A

Medium

Black rock, salt crystals, earth, red water

Bibliographic Citation

https://www.diaart.org/collection/collection/smithson-robert-spiral-jetty-1970-1999-014/

Spatial Coverage

Great Salt Lake, Utah

Temporal Coverage

20th Century

Accrual Method

Through the generosity of the artist Nancy Holt, Smithson’s wife, and the Estate of Robert Smithson, the artwork was donated to Dia Art Foundation.

Audience

General audience

Provenance

N/A

Rights Holder

https://www.diaart.org/footer/terms-of-use

Citation

Robert Smithson, American, 1938-1973, “Spiral Jetty,” Park Culture, accessed March 8, 2021, http://parkculture.org/items/show/181.

Collection

Geolocation