Robert Smithson at the Whitney Museum is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: Robert Smithson found spirals before his "Jetty".

This is an untitled piece known as “Spiral Mask,” finished in 1961 by the great land artist Robert Smithson. It’s from “Signs & Symbols”, the same Whitney Museum show as yesterday’s abstract Daily Pic, and gives some sense of the range there is in that exhibition, which aims to broaden the context for American abstraction. The mask also points to how early Smithson came to the main motif of his most famous work, the “Spiral Jetty” earthwork from 1970. And its borrowing from so-called “tribal” art reveals that Smithson, often imagined as a rigorous conceptual artist, actually had an expressionist, oracular, irrational side.

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