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Robert Smithson and the Postmodernist Project

Robert Smithson, perhaps the best known of all artists in the Earthworks and Site-Specific Sculpture movement, wrote that:

One's mind and the earth are in a constant state of erosion, mental rivers wear away abstract banks, brain waves undermine cliffs of thought, ideas decompose into

stones of unknowing, and conceptual crystallizations beak apart into deposits of gritty reason (in Kurtz, 1992, p.

Smithson's comment captured some of the essential elements ofearthwork, described by Bruce Kurtz (1992) as art forms so inextricably linked to their site and location that they cannot be separated from it.

Earthworks emerged in the second half of the 1960s because artists were concerned with the politics of the art world, including issues of power and control over art itself. In their large scale, Earthworks and other site-specific sculptures employ the dimension of time in addition to height, width, and depth. Kurtz (1992) says that Earthworks interact with the natural landscape, function within natural systems, and present no clear boundaries between the art works and the landscapes that they not so much occupy as possess. Many Earthworks are located in the western United States, linking them, according to Kurtz (1992), to the western frontier mythology, including the myth that wide open spaces foster individualism and freedom from conventions.

Indeed, Flam (1996) called for an art that took into account the direct of the elements as they exist from day to day apart from representation. As a postmodernist, Flam (1996) rejected the confines of the art gallery in most cases, expended a great deal of time, energy, and creative talent on working directly with the land and natural or man-made objects that are found on the land, and distancing his art from the museum. Flam (1996) believed that it was important to remove art from the custodianship of warden-curators and allow time and the environment to interact wit...

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