Robert Smithson was born in Passaic, New Jersey, in 1938. In 1953, when he was still studying at the institute, he obtained a scholarship to study at the Art Students League in New York, which he attended for two years in the evenings. In 1956 he began attending classes at the Brooklyn Museum School. Smithson's first solo exhibition was in 1959 at the Artist's Gallery in New York. In 1964, he began producing what he considered his first mature works of writing and sculpture. Smithson used black basalt rocks and soil from around Utah's Great Salt Lake to create a monumental embankment Spiral Jetty (1970), a 457 m long, 4.6 m wide spiral that extends in the direction of counterclockwise towards the red translucent water of the lake. Smithson died in a plane crash in Amarillo, Texas, in 1973, while flying over his Amarillo Ramp project.