New York

Robert Smithson

Dwan Gallery

The key pieces of Robert Smithson’s demanding exhibition at the Dwan Gallery are two sculptural groups, each containing ten elements, lined up in rows. The basic element of Alogon is a corner like structure built of fifteen cubes. (In line, the formation is often met as an optical illusion.) Constructed out of sheet metal, each element is sprayed gunmetal silver. As one moves past each element one encounters a constant and regularly applied scale increment. The basic modular unit moves from a three-and-a-half-inch cube to a seven inch cube.

The second sculpture, Plunge, lines up ten works, the basic group of which is a cube, growing out of a cube, growing out of a cube, u.s.w., four times over. By regularly enlarging the size of each cube the work grows from an overall height of 22 inches in the first piece to 40 inches in the last.

Smithson is fascinated by the ritual possibilities of number. His catalog offers us a table of measurements arrived at by determining the “intersection areas to the total surface,“ the “Measurements of Visible Cubes,” a “Code of Positional Changes” and the like. Despite Smithson’s scientistic information his work attests to a highly quirky, Dadaistic temperament. This is not meant as a negative criticism. It only reminds us that much of minimal sculpture is a marriage of engineering and absurdity. Be that as it may, Smithson’s handsome and astute work identifies him incontestably as a major figure of what may very soon prove to be a morganatic alliance.

Robert Pincus-Witten