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Description: Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History
~~This book began, many revisions ago, as a dissertation in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University. I first thank my mentors there for giving the project the generous support, and the critical scrutiny, that allowed it to develop as it did. I am especially grateful to Jules D. Prown: not only for his...
PublisherYale University Press
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This book began, many revisions ago, as a dissertation in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University. I first thank my mentors there for giving the project the generous support, and the critical scrutiny, that allowed it to develop as it did. I am especially grateful to Jules D. Prown: not only for his encouragement of this project in particular but also for his role in building a rigorous and stimulating environment for the study of American art at Yale. The members of my dissertation committee, Thomas Crow, Bryan Jay Wolf, and Johanna Drucker, were each objects of my greatest esteem before I had the good fortune to work with them personally, and each has offered invaluable insight, advice, and debate as this project has progressed. Christopher S. Wood, although not officially a member of my committee, offered helpful commentary on the early drafts of several chapters. His profound influence as a teacher and mentor on my way of thinking and doing art history is, I hope, evident throughout this text. I’d also like to convey my appreciation to Michael Lobel and Sarah K. Rich, fellow graduate students who repeatedly intimidated me in seminars with their high standards of critical acuity, erudition, and engagement. I owe a great deal to their example.
This project has passed with me through several other institutions, each of which, in its particular constellation of colleagues and resources, has enriched it. My advisers and fellow Fellows from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where I spent a productive year of predoctoral research and writing, contributed in innumerable ways to the final shape of this book. For their conversation and critique I thank Wendy Bellion, Kristin Schwain, Anne Collins Goodyear, Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, Jobyl Boone, Alan Braddock, Jason Weems, and William H. Truettner. I also had the good fortune to spend two years as the Carole and Alvin I. Schragis Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Fine Arts at Syracuse University, where my manageable teaching schedule, along with the moral and intellectual support of my colleagues, allowed me to complete the majority of the revisions to the manuscript. I’d particularly like to thank Jonathan Massey for helping me get up to speed on the fourth dimension (no small task), and Stephen C. Meyer and Eileen Strempel for many stimulating discussions, on topics ranging from deconstruction to synaesthesia, over wine and homegrown tomatoes. My new colleagues in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University energized the final year of revision with fresh dialogues and perspectives; thanks especially to Eugene Wang, Jeffrey Hamburger, Yve-Alain Bois, and most of all to Robin Kelsey, a fellow connoisseur of rockpiles, who read the entire manuscript during a summer when he had better things to do. His critical insight and intellectual generosity have impacted this book at every level.
Many others have contributed to this project through their careful and generous reading of drafts of various chapters, especially Alex Nemerov, David Lubin, Sally Promey, Linda Dalrymple Henderson, Katherine Manthorne, Walter Cahn, Glenn Adamson, Carlton Evans, and Joshua Shannon. An earlier version of the material in Chapter 4 was published in The Art Bulletin. Thanks to Caroline A. Jones for her especially attentive reading of the article manuscript, and to Mary Miller and R. Tripp Evans, without whose patient and generous guidance in some of the most basic aspects of Pre-Columbian studies I could not have undertaken such an extensive foray into an unfamiliar subject. Thanks also to Perry Chapman and Lory Frankel, whose editorial assistance on the Art Bulletin version of the chapter greatly improved the current version.
Several individuals went above and beyond the call of duty to assist me with research and reproductions. I would particularly like to thank Jessica Cox and Alison Gallup at VAGA, Hannah Israel and Elyse Goldberg at the James Cohan Gallery, Mark Henderson at the Getty Research Institute, and Vicki Buchsbaum Pearse, who went to the trouble of granting me permission to reproduce an illustration from her father’s invertebrate biology textbook soon after he had passed away. Rick Wilson, chief ranger at the Golden Spike National Historic Site, assisted me in working through the archives there. Like all of the rangers I met at the Site, he has cheerfully adopted the Spiral Jetty and its pilgrims, despite the fact that this kind of curatorship is not likely part of his official job description. Judy Throm and the entire staff at the Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C., accommodated my every request for access to the Smithson Papers and routinely hauled out heavy boxes of Smithson’s books for my perusal. Anne, Robert, and Jennifer Lester graciously provided the images reproduced here from the Estate of George Lester. Genevieve Hyacinthe and Jacob Proctor, my research assistants at Harvard, offered heroic last-minute help with photographs and copyediting. Without the assistance of Nancy Holt, who made many photographs available and who graciously submitted to an interview, this project could hardly have begun. And without the expert guidance of Patricia Fidler and Michelle Komie at Yale University Press (along with the apparently boundless patience of my manuscript editor, Jeffrey Schier), it could never have come to fruition.
My work on this book would have been impossible without the financial generosity of many institutions and foundations. At the dissertation stage the project received substantial support from the American Council of Learned Societies/Henry Luce Foundation, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the John F. Enders Fellowships at Yale University, and the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies. Assistance with photographic expenses was provided by the Clark/Cooke Fund for Faculty Research at Harvard University and the Schragis Faculty Fellowship research fund at Syracuse.
For whatever insights I have been able to bring to Smithson’s work, I am deeply indebted to all of those who have helped make it available to scholars in the first place. I have been fortunate to study Smithson’s work during precisely the years that, for the first time, something approaching its full spectrum has been compiled, archived, and published. Most important of all was Nancy Holt’s 1995 gift of Smithson’s papers and library to the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art. Also particularly valuable to me have been Robert Hobbs’s early survey of Smithson’s sculpture, Eugenie Tsai’s “unearthing” of Smithson’s early drawings and paintings, Robert Sobieszek’s pathbreaking work on Smithson’s photographs, Jack Flam’s 1996 edition of Smithson’s writings, and Gary Shapiro’s philosophical analysis of Smithson’s work. Joseph Masheck’s short essays on Smithson from the seventies first raised many of the questions that this book attempts to answer. And although Ann M. Reynolds’s monograph on Smithson was published too late to be considered here, her 1993 doctoral dissertation was especially important for me in its rigorous and detailed reading of some of the most difficult aspects of Smithson’s work.
My deepest and most heartfelt gratitude, finally, goes to Dan Hisel. He fended off the rattlesnake at the Spiral Jetty site and, in every other possible way, made the joys of this project outweigh the dangers.
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