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Chalk-Mirror Displacement

Large mound of rocks intersected radially by long rectangular mirrors.
Art © Estate of Robert Smithson / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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  • Large mound of rocks intersected radially by long rectangular mirrors.




Robert Smithson
American, 1938–1973

About this artwork

The painter, sculptor, theorist, filmmaker, and photographer Robert Smithson helped pioneer the Earthwork Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, which took as its subject the artistic reordering of the American landscape in its many varied forms. Chalk-Mirror Displacement belongs to a series of works, executed in 1968 and 1969, that combine mirrors and organic materials. Eight double-sided mirrors radiate like spokes from the center of a chalk pile located on the gallery floor. As they slice through the pile, the mirrors separate the chalk into almost identical wedge-shaped compartments. The double reflection in each compartment preserves the illusion of the whole pile, making the mirror dividers appear nearly invisible. This work is also one of Smithson’s Site/Nonsite pieces. The artist referred to the first stage of the work as a “Site Incarnation,” which he created for a particular outdoor location: in this case, a chalk quarry in Oxted, York, England. After setting up and photographing the Site piece, the artist then dismantled it. The materials were subsequently reinstalled in the Nonsite location, the seminal 1969 exhibition When Attitude Becomes Form at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. This process purposefully blurred the boundaries between art and its environment, within and without gallery walls.


Currently Off View


Contemporary Art


Robert Smithson


Chalk-Mirror Displacement


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Original 1969


Sixteen mirrors and chalk


Approximately: Diam.: 304.8 cm (120 in.)

Credit Line

Through prior gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Morris

Reference Number



Art © Estate of Robert Smithson / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Extended information about this artwork

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