Art-Inspired Road Trips

September 3rd, 2004 · 1 Comment · Writing

So maybe you’ve heard about Robert Smithson‘s Spiral Jetty, the grand swirling earthwork that juts into Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Maybe you’ve also heard that Smithson died in 1973, at the age of 35, and that he has never had a major retrospective. Until next week, that is, when the Robert Smithson retrospective opens at MOCA.

Of course we’ll go see the show, and in fact, I have to write a moderately long analysis of the exhibition’s effectiveness. But I want to see the real deal too. The thing about the Jetty is that almost immediately after it was installed, the water level at the Great Salt Lake rose and covered it over. This year, the water went back down and out the Jetty came, covered with delicate salt crystals that sparkle white in the sun. Undoubtedly, the water will rise again, and Smithson’s earthwork will go back into hibernation. The time to see it is now.

Out here in the West, we’re lucky enough to live in relative proximity to many wonderful earthworks: the Jetty of course, and the much anticipated James Turrell’s Roden Crater, Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnells, Walter de Maria’s Lightening Field, and then, of course, although not an earthwork, there is Donald Judd’s wonderful Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas.

Murray and I have been trying to make a trip out to Marfa for the last four or five years, but it seems that every time we make the California to Texas drive, usually Christmas-time, by the time we hit El Paso and are faced with a three and a half hour detour out to Marfa, we’re inclined to keep on trudging out I-20 in hopes of getting the 12-hour drive to Dallas over with as soon as possible.

This year, though, I think we’re going to make it a priority. ReadyMade, one of our favorite magazines, did a profile of some great guest lofts operated by a few hipster San Francisco ex-pats in Alpine, only 20 minutes from Marfa. I think we’ll try to get a room there and break the drive into a 3-day trip. Maybe we’ll take the high road (I-40) on the way back to L.A., and stop at Roden Crater, even though it’s not yet open, outside of Flagstaff, AZ. Now that’s a road trip to get excited about.

Category: Writing

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