new-york

“Robert Smithson: Sculpture”

Whitney Museum of American Art

This exhibition arrived at the Whitney near the end of its tour, which began at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell (Autumn 1980) and will culminate in the United States Pavillion at the Venice Biennale (Summer 1982). It followed the publication of Smithson’s writings (New York University Press, 1979) and the steady extension of his cult, and came with its own excellent, amply illustrated book. And it also came with a lofty ambition: to provide a “comprehensive view,” in just over sixty works, of the man who “gave” us entropy and the dialectical landscape, who battled against the object, immortalized the suburbs’ eroding monuments, and who voiced, in so many ways, late-’60s concerns which were developed in the ’70s and are only beginning to bear ’80s fruit. That’s quite an order to fill.

First things first: the show was a visual knockout, something the Whitney’s cavernous spaces and

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