Museum Exhibition
Robert Smithson at the 56th International Art Exhibition
La Biennale di Venezia
May 9 – November 22, 2015
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ROBERT SMITHSON Dead Tree, 1969, tree and mirrors, (destroyed)  Prospect 69', Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf


All the World’s Futures

56th International Art Exhibition - by la Biennale di Venezia

Padiglione Centrale (Giardini Di Castello)

May 9 – November 22, 2015


James Cohan Gallery is pleased to announce that the work of American artist Robert Smithson (1938 - 1973) will be included in the 56th International Art Exhibition  All the World’s Futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor and organized by la Biennale di Venezia, opening May 9th running through November 22, 2015.


The late Robert Smithson was renowned as a pioneer of land art movement of the 1960’s and 70’s and most well recognized for his monumental earthwork from 1970, Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake. For the 56th Biennale, Mr. Enwezor is including a reconstruction of Smithson’s installation work Dead Tree, first presented in 1969, along with two important drawings and a film collaboration with artist and wife of Smithson, Nancy Holt. The installation of Dead Tree in the 56th Biennale will be the fourth reconstruction of this work.


Dead Tree was originally exhibited in Prospect 69’ in the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, curated by Konrad Fischer and Hans Strelow. Dead Tree, 1969 was the last of Smithson's “nonsite” installations using uprooted trees; this being the largest and most dramatic in this series of radical investigations into displacement, temporality, and entropy. Smithson's nonsites exist in between place and time, a dialect between the indoors and the outdoors which confound the illusion of materiality and order. His use of nature, earth, rocks, plants, is both the thing itself as well as sculpture. Subversion of aesthetic resonance resounds in all of Smithson’s nonsites giving precedence to physical realities and its radical transformation. 


For the original installation, Smithson scavenged a dead tree from Langfeld, Germany. At the museum in Dusseldorf, the tree was installed lying on its side, roots and all. In keeping with Smithson's intention to create visual disruption, seven double-sided rectangular mirrors were propped within the branches and root system, parallel to the floor, mimicking a horizon line. Displacement is made manifest in the dead tree. Past, present and future, congregate and collide within the fractured space created by Smithson’s use of mirrors that speak to unlimited unity and annihilation. Of the nonsites Smithson has said “there is a central focus point which is the non-site; the site is the unfocused fringe where your mind loses its boundaries and a sense of the oceanic pervades. The interesting thing about the site is that, unlike the non-site, it throws you out to the fringes.”


The tree was destroyed at the end of the Prospect 69’ according to Smithson's specific instructions.


Previous re-constructions of Dead Tree.


Additionally included in All the World’s Futures are two of Smithson’s drawings that relate to his concepts of entropy and nonsites, titled respectively Island Project, 1970 and Floating Island, 1970. In addition, the collaborative film Swamp, 1971 by Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt will also be on view. This seminal film, viscerally confronts issues of perception and process. Holt walks through the tall grasses of a swamp while filming with her Bolex camera, guided only by what she can see through the camera lens and by Smithson's verbal instructions. The viewer experiences the walk from Holt's point of view, seeing through her camera lens and hearing Smithson's spoken directions. Vision is obstructed and perception distorted as they stumble through the swamp grasses. Holt has stated that Swamp " with limitations of perception through the camera eye as Bob and I struggled through a muddy New Jersey swamp. Verbal direction cannot easily be followed. As the reeds crash against the camera lens blocking vision and forming continuously shifting patterns, confusion ensues."


The Estate of Robert Smithson is represented by James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai. Please contact Elyse Goldberg for any further information at


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