The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is holding a solo exhibition of Robert Smithson (New Jersey, USA, 1938 - Texas, USA, 1973) as part of their collaboration with PHotoEspaña'08. Smithson began his career very young as a sculptor and experimental artist and at only 21 had his first solo exhibition. From his early death at age 35, his work has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions at places such as the Whitney Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Venice Biennale.
Despite his early death, Smithson made some of the most important and renowned Land Art pieces and is considered one of the main architects in the formal and theoretical setting of this vital artistic movement of the twentieth century. He was initiated during the mid-sixties into the cultural melting pot of New York and into the desert spaces of the western United States, as can be seen in the collective exhibition Between geometry and gesture: American Sculpture, 1965-1975 exhibited at the Centro Nacional de Exposiciones in 1986.
In his numerous travels Smithson studied the relationship between nature, human intervention and the energy that transforms and unifies them. With almost the same thoroughness as a geologist he investigated the soil and rocks of hidden places that were chosen for his pieces, sometimes showing them as alien places in an exercise of irony. The concern for the place, common theme in this edition of PHotoEspaña, is a constant in all of this artist’s work.
Hotel Palenque is an installation composed of thirty-one colour slides and a recording of Smithson giving a lecture to architectural students at the University of Utah. In 1969, the artist travels from his home in Manhattan to the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico). Once there, he was attracted, more than by the imposing Mayan temples, by the eccentric old hotel where he was staying. The slides were taken while moving through it, showing the cycle of decay and renovations that the building was going through due to the successive reforms their owners made on it. This hotel is both at the same time a work in construction and a contemporary ruin. For Smithson it supposes proof that the process of destruction and renewal, part of the Mayan culture itself, is still active.