Utah Museum of Fine Arts presents The Smithson Effect

Peter Coffin
Untitled (Rainbow), 2005
30 inkjet prints, T-Pins
© Peter Coffin, 2005

Utah Museum of Fine Arts presents The Smithson Effect

Utah Museum of Fine Arts March 10-July 3, 2011

Utah Museum of Fine Arts
The University of Utah
Marcia and John Price Museum Building
410 Campus Center Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84112

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The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) is pleased to present The Smithson Effect, on view in the Marcia and John Price Museum Building at the University of Utah from March 11 through July 3, 2011. Comprising works by twenty-three international artists and artist collaboratives, the exhibition aims to narrate a widely recognized, yet little discussed story: that of Robert Smithson’s pervasive presence in contemporary art of the past two decades. The Smithson Effect brings together—for the first time—a broad spectrum of work by artists who share an indebtedness to his art and ideas.While Smithson remains best known for his pioneering earthworks—the most famous is Spiral Jetty (1970) in Utah’s Great Salt Lake—his legacy extends far beyond his interventions in the landscape. Working across and between various mediums, Smithson relocated both the place of artistic production (from the artist’s studio to the expanded field) and the place of art’s exhibition (from the site of the expanded field to the non-site of the gallery). The Smithson Effect is organized around core ideas in his practice that have critically shaped contemporary art, including entropy, land use, anti-monuments, natural history, and the materiality of language.

If the market-driven art boom of the 1980s can be seen to have repressed practices of the 1960s and 70s that sought to eschew the commodity status of the art object and to question the role of institutions, The Smithson Effect suggests that many artists who came of age in the 1990s were compelled to reconstruct those histories. The exhibition features a number of artists who focus on earthworks by Smithson that have disappeared or been destroyed; such lost works serve as points of departure for grappling with the legacy of early site-oriented art and of 1960s counterculture more broadly. These artists’ attempts to reconnect with Smithson’s practice speak to a desire to transform unrealized visions of the past into new possibilities for art making and activism in the present.

Artists include: Adam Bateman, Walead Beshty, Matthew Buckingham, Tom Burr, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Peter Coffin, Tacita Dean, Mark Dion, Sam Durant, Shannon Ebner, Cyprien Gaillard, Amy Granat and Drew Heitzler, Renée Green, Simon Leung, Debora Ligorio, Ann Lislegaard, Florian Maier-Aichen, Vik Muniz, Lee Ranaldo, Alexis Rockman, Melanie Smith, and Tony Tasset.

Curator: Jill Dawsey, UMFA Acting Chief Curator

The exhibition is accompanied by an online resource providing information about Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, including a time-lapsed video of a journey to the earthwork and interviews with art and environmental experts:

The Smithson Effect is presented by the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation.

Press contact:
Shelbey Peterson, UMFA Public Relations and Marketing Associate,
[email protected]

Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Museum hours:
Tuesday – Friday: 10 am – 5 pm; Wednesdays 10 am – 8 pm; Weekends, 11 am – 5 pm; closed Mondays and holidays.

“Artists on Smithson”
Saturday, April 2 • 2-4 pm
Short talks by artists featured in The Smithson Effect, including Matthew Coolidge of the Center for Land Use Interpretation and Sam Durant, followed by a discussion mediated by Jill Dawsey, UMFA Acting Chief Curator

“Viral Jetty: The Smithson Effect in Literature”
Wednesday, April, 13 • 6 pm
Lecture by Professor Craig Dworkin of the Department of English at the University of Utah

“Robert Smithson and the Spiral Jetty: The Center and the Circumference”
Wednesday, May 11 • 7 pm
Lecture by art historian Hikmet Sidney Loe, author of the forthcoming book The Spiral Jetty and Rozel Point: Rotating Through Time and Place (Utah State University Press, 2012).