Robert Smithson, Asphalt Rundown (1969)
Photograph: Robert Smithson
© Holt/Smithson Foundation/licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York
The first of Smithson’s major earthworks designed to exist exclusively outside, Asphalt Rundown is a demonstration of what Smithson called the “crystalline structure of time” - he argued that time does not pass so much as it builds upon itself. In a quarry outside of Rome, Smithson poured a truckload of hot asphalt down a steep embankment, which cooled and hardened as it fell. The resulting sculpture can be seen as time frozen, mid-flow, or as yet another sedimentary layer in the infinite accumulation of time.