This article was originally published in Domus 531 / February 1974
The last work of Robert Smithson
In an arid and abstracted landscape scorched by the sun for 350 days of the year, Robert Smithson's (1938-1973) last work was completed. It concluded the trilogy which began with Spiral Jetty in 1970, at Great Salt Lake, Utah, and with The Broken Circle, at Emmen, Holland, in 1971. Amarillo Ramp is situated on Tevocas Lake, an artificial lake 17 miles [27 kilometres] north of Amarillo, in the Texas Panhandle. The idea of producing a work in an artificial lake originated from the analogical and historical need to integrate or to flank a utilitarian irrigation operation with an artistic act that would aestheticize the territory. The semi-desert surroundings, swept by continuai tornadoes, were chosen for their physical and atmospheric features, capable of changing the colour of the earth and rocks according to the variation of solar incidence.
Constructed in sandstone rock with white veining, the ramp starts from the shore and stretches for 120 metres into the lake. Its diameter (45 metres) is the maximum permitted by the capacity of the lake. When the lake is not dry and is at its normal water level, the ramp emerges by 3,3 metres and occupies half the lake. As one walks along it one feels as though one were going into an endless and timeless space, swinging between earth and sky.