Asphalt Rundown, 1969
Smithson’s interest in the second law of thermodynamics completely dominated his life and work. Much of his art is associated with the concept of entropy: the law that states that molecular disorder can only increase, and as such the universe will eventually run down (a law that has since been discredited). In this piece, liquid asphalt slides from the dump truck and runs down an eroded hill in a quarry near Rome, Italy forming an abstract expressionist canvas. However, the work cannot only be considered aesthetically –we’re forced to consider the ecology (What is the damage being done? Who will clean this up? How will the earth recover?). By performing an act with the weapon of urban sprawl–asphalt–we are forced to look at the effects of industrialization on the landscape under a hard light. – D. Scott Hessels –
Robert Smitson died in a plane crash while photographing a work in Texas, called Amarillo Ramp (1973), consisting of a 140 foot diameter partial circle of rock, which rises out of the level ground to a height of around 15 feet. The artificial lake in which the piece once emerged is now dry, and the sculpture is slowly eroding.