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United States of America 1938 – 1973

Rocks and mirror square II 1971
Collection Title: Rocks and mirror square II
sculptures, basalt rocks and mirrors
Technique: basalt rocks and mirrors
Primary Insc: No inscriptions
irregular 36.0 h x 220.0 w x 220.0 d cm
each 36.0 h x 122.0 w cm
Purchased 1977
Accession No: NGA 77.796.A-D
© Robert Smithson/VAGA. Licensed by Viscopy

  • the artist;
  • estate of the artist, 1973-77;
  • from whom bought through John Weber Gallery, New York, by the Australian National Gallery, October 1977
  • Mirrors, accustomed to returning the animate looks of anxious or admiring humans, here reflect rocks and floor. The mirrors are industrial products and the basalt rocks are from nature, the artist picking them up in the countryside near Patterson, New Jersey. The mirrors are geometrically rectangular and ordered in a shining square, the rocks a disparate jumble of uniquely irregular fragments.

    Puzzles and surprises overtake the unsuspecting visitor. There is the almost incurable illusion that one is seeing rocks on the other side of transparent walls of glass. There is the apprehension of infinite reflexivity upon kneeling down and peering across the tops of the nearer mirrors. There is the impression that the installation is hugging the ground and levitating at the same time. That these mesmerising complications can be produced by such a simple idea as arranging eight back-to-back mirrors in a square and buttressing them with rocks is enchanting.

    Visitors’ feet are incorporated into the work and the centre of the installation is unoccupied so that the floor shows through.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008