Despite Smithson's personal reputation as one of the most thoughtful and committed postmodernist artists of his time, the earthworks movement has attracted controversy, not least for the contradiction between its avowed rejection of the commercial art world, and its reliance on commercial galleries to present its work. In addition, many of the remote locations involved can only be viewed by plane, which narrows its audience drastically. Finally, the movement must overcome the main issue surrounding all postmodernist art , namely: is it art ? (Or, is it environmental engineering?) Art critics are unsure. The postmodernist issue is exacerbated by a continuing use of overly complex language. For instance, as long as articles on Smithson contain such cumbersome phrases like - "anti-aesthetic dynamic relationships", "anti-formalist logic and a theoretical framework of the Picturesque", "the dialectic between the physical landscape and its temporal context" - the subject is likely to remain the preserve of the hyper-educated elite.
Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971 presents the storied history of the Dwan Gallery, one of the most important galleries of the postwar period in the ., and the dealer and patron Virginia Dwan. Founded by Dwan in a storefront in Westwood in 1959, the Dwan Gallery was a leading avant-garde space during the 1960s, presenting groundbreaking exhibitions by Edward Kienholz, Yves Klein, Franz Kline, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, and Robert Smithson, among others. A keen follower of contemporary French art, Dwan gave many of the Nouveau Réalistes their first shows in the . In 1965 she established a second space in New York City; Dwan New York would go on to provide the first platform for now-major tendencies in the history of contemporary art including Minimal Art, Land Art, and Conceptual Art. She was a leading patron of earthworks and sponsored major projects including: Heizer’s Double Negative (1969) and City: Complex One (begun 1972); Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970); De Maria’s 35-Pole Lightning Field (1974); and Charles Ross’s Star Axis (begun 1971).