Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Art & Art History
In the mid to late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s many contemporary American artists mounted critical attacks on the art world, shaking up long-held beliefs and inciting heated conversations still being addressed today. The arguments offered during this time questioned the relevance of modernist criticism and modernist institutions such as the gallery and the museum. Important artistic personalities interested in finding and creating new pathways out of modernist frameworks arose as a result of these discussions and contributed to the wide diversification of artistic practice prevalent during this time.
One such artist heavily involved in the shaping of 1960s and 1970s art discourse was Robert Smithson whose critical views of the art world led him towards an investigation of perception itself. In doing so Smithson came to perform some of the most effective critiques on vision, time, and location in regards to art and its viewers. This author wishes to highlight the artist’s use of science-fiction type imagery, as gleaned from contemporary film and literature, and its employment within the artist’s larger cultural critiques against capitalist trends and habits within the art world. Smithson’s attraction toward science fiction stems from a need for a conceptual system able to incorporate such disparate themes and subjects as geologic time, abstraction, alternate dimensions, and barren landscapes. Through his adoption of science-fiction imagery, Smithson constructed a critical framework aimed at the dissolution of Greenbergian modernism and what he saw as institutionally endorsed trends within the art world. While much has been and continues to be written on Smithson’s relevance, I wish to argue for the importance of the science-fiction trope and its essentialness to any understanding of Smithson’s larger body of work.
Creighton, Alexander Jon, "Robert Smithson in Space: Science Fiction in the Gallery and Beyond" (2014). Art History Theses & Dissertations. 1.