Robert Smithson in Texas

The First Exhibition to Examine the Influential American Artist’s Texas Projects

 The Dallas Museum of Art presents Robert Smithson in Texas, the first examination of five projects proposed by the internationally renowned American artist throughout Texas in the years 1966–1973. The exhibition, on view November 24, 2013, through April 27, 2014, coincides with the 40th anniversary of Smithson’s final work, Amarillo Ramp, completed posthumously in August 1973.

Robert Smithson is considered one of the most innovative and iconoclastic artists of the twentieth century.  One of several artists in the 1960's and early 70's who built site-specific pieces in remote locations in the West, he is a founder of the art form known as "earthworks" or "land art", being most well-known for the Spiral Jetty, 1970, located in the Great Salt Lake, Utah and described in the New York Times as "an icon of Americana".  In particular, Smithson was intrigued by the idea of entropy, the inevitable disintegration of all objects in nature.

“Robert Smithson’s passion for the Texas landscape is one that has been a privilege to observe and share. It is with tremendous enthusiasm that the Dallas Museum of Art brings his important contributions in the state of Texas to the attention of the wider public,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art.

Robert Smithson’s engagement with Texas began in July 1966, when he was hired as an artist consultant to the New York–based architecture and engineering firm Tippetts, Abbett, McCarthy, Stratton (TAMS) to develop plans for the Dallas–Fort Worth Regional Airport. Though his plans never came to fruition, Smithson credited the project as being a major development in his movement toward the concept of large-scale earthworks. In 1969, and in the early 70’s he returned several more times to Texas,  where he proposed projects related to islands off the Gulf Coast outside Houston and at the Northwood Institute near Dallas. Though these projects, too, were never realized, the artist created as many as 15 drawings related to their respective proposals.

Born in Passaic, New Jersey, in 1938, Smithson studied painting and drawing in New York City at the Art Students League of New York from 1955 to 1956, and then briefly at the Brooklyn Museum School. He gained international recognition for his groundbreaking art, which was not limited by genre or materials, as well as for his critical writings, which challenged traditional categories of art between the years 1964–1973. Smithson’s art and writings have had a profound influence on sculpture and art theory and his work continues to be exhibited in museums both nationally and internationally. The artist died in a plane crash in 1973 while aerially viewing his finalized arrangements for his monumental Amarillo Ramp.

Robert Smithson in Texas features approximately 26 objects, including drawings, sculpture, and photographs, drawn from public and private collections and the artist’s estate.  On view in the DMA’s Focus Gallery II, the exhibition presents lesser-known works from a period of Smithson’s career that was bookended by the Dallas–Fort Worth Airport project from 1966–1967, and Smithson’s only realized work in Texas, the 1973 Amarillo Ramp. A major highlight of the exhibition is a new video The Making of Amarillo Ramp by artist Nancy Holt, a frequent collaborator with Smithson, and to whom he was married. The Making of Amarillo Ramp was filmed  by Nancy Holt in 1973 on 16 mm color film stock with a Bolex camera.  In the mid-1990's she transferred the film to video, editing it into its final form in 2013.  This powerful film provides the viewer with never before seen footage of the creation of Amarillo Ramp and provides a unique insight into the artist's vision.
Complementing the Focus show, the DMA will showcase in its Hoffman Galleries a selection of holdings by the artist in its permanent collection, including the dramatic sculpture Mirrors and Shelly Sand.

“For Smithson, the landscape of the American West represented infinite possibilities to be explored outside the traditional gallery space. Texas, in particular, provided a wellspring of ideas that the artist either tested or realized in other parts of the country. By bringing together the works in this exhibition, the Dallas Museum of Art will reveal how the Lone Star State was integral to Smithson’s career,” said Leigh Arnold, consulting curator.

Robert Smithson in Texas is included in the Museum’s free general admission. The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color, illustrated publication with an introduction by Jeffrey Grove, senior curator of special projects & research, and essays by Smithson scholars Dr. Amy von Lintel of Amarillo, Texas, and Leigh Arnold, consulting curator for the exhibition and doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Dallas. This publication was made possible through generous assistance from the Estate of Robert Smithson and James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai. Programming will be scheduled throughout the run of the exhibition. For further details, visit

The exhibition is curated by Leigh Arnold, consulting curator, under the leadership of Jeffrey Grove, senior curator of special projects & research at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Image: Robert Wade, Robert Smithson drawing at Northwood Institute, 1970, photograph, Courtesy of Robert Wade, Austin, Texas

About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 22,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, the Museum welcomes more than half a million visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. In January 2013, the DMA returned to a free general admission policy and launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program in the country.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Partners and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.

For more information, please contact:
Jill Bernstein
Dallas Museum of Art