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Roberts, Jennifer L. 1969-

Roberts, Jennifer L. 1969-


Born 1969. Education: Stanford University, A.B., 1992; Yale University, Ph.D., 2000.


Office—Sackler Museum 507, 485 Broadway, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, educator. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, assistant professor, 2002-07, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture, 2007—.


Stanford Humanities Award in Art History, Stanford University, 1992; A. Bartlett Giamatti Graduate Fellowship, 1993-95; Henry S. McNeil Fellowship in American Art, 1993-97; Andrew W. Mellon Dissertation Fellowship, Yale University, 1997; Charles Redd Center for Western Studies Grant, 1997; John F. Enders Dissertation Fellowship, Yale University, 1998; Henry Luce Dissertation Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies, 1998-99; Patricia and Philip Frost Predoctoral Fellowship, National Museum of American Art/Smithsonian Institution, 1999-2000; Carole and Alvin I. Schragis Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow, Syracuse University, 2000-02; Frances Blanshard Prize for the most distinguished dissertation in the History of Art, Yale University, 2001; Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize for Excellence in the Work of Undergraduates and in the Art of Teaching, Harvard University, 2003, 2004, 2005; Roslyn Abramson Award for excellence in teaching undergraduates, Harvard University, 2005; Stanford Humanities Center Fellowship, 2005-06; Clark Art Institute Fellowship, 2007.


Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2004.

(With others) American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (textbook), Prentice Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 2007.


Jennifer L. Roberts, a Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University, instructs students in all eras of American art, with particular emphasis on "landscape, travel, the history of science, and the history and theory of material culture," as is noted in her faculty profile for the Harvard University Web site. Her first book, the 2004 Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History, blends these academic interests in an examination of the multifaceted career of this American landscape and installation artist, photographer, sculptor, filmmaker, and art critic. Smithson, born in 1938, was best known for so-called land art and installations, such as his Spiral Jetty, a 1,500-foot coil of rocks built into the Great Salt Lake in Utah. A native of Passaic, New York, Smithson studied at the Art Students League. His early work in collages was inspired by Pop Art, science fiction, and provocative drawings from homoerotic magazines. His more mature work of the 1960s and early 1970s—Smithson died in a plane crash in 1973 exploring new sites—explores installation art with land art pieces, placing excavated earth and stone in various locations. He also began to write widely on landscape and landscape art, as in an essay on Frederick Law Olmsted, the planner of Central Park in New York, New York. His Spiral Jetty, built of stone, earth, and chunks of salt, was hidden by the Great Salt Lake's rising waters for many years, but has become visible again with the receding of the waters.

In Mirror-Travels, Roberts focuses on Smithson's Spiral Jetty. She also discusses the photographic essay "Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan," a represen- tation of nine installations Smithson created in 1969, and "The Monuments of Passaic," a photographic essay of his hometown. Roberts emphasizes the purposeful connection between Spiral Jetty and the nearby Golden Spike National Historic Site, celebrating the completion of the first U.S. transcontinental railroad.

Mirror-Travels earned mixed reviews. Architectural Review contributor Sutherland Lyall stated that the book "reads rather like a candidate's essay for entry to membership of the US academic inner clerisy via an elaborately obscure text on an almost impenetrably dull topic." Lyall further noted: "Roberts is one of those people who infinitely prefers prolixity and repetition to clarity and precision." However, Artforum International critic Caroline A. Jones had a more positive assessment of Mirror-Travels, commenting that Roberts's study "enters this field well prepared, inserting itself into the substantial Smithson literature with surgical precision." Jones continued, "Drawing on [a] trove of archival materials … Roberts has used Smithson's own archaeological strata to craft a revisionist history." Jones concluded that Roberts "reflects a new Smithson of sophisticated historical depth."



Architectural Review, January 1, 2005, Sutherland Lyall, "Angels on the Head of a Pin," review of Mirror-Travels: Robert Smithson and History, p. 89.

Artforum International, June 22, 2004, Caroline A. Jones, review of Mirror-Travels, p. 37.


Harvard University Web site, (June 30, 2008), author faculty profile.

University of Rochester Web site, (June 30, 3008), author information.

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