Asphalt Rundown, Rome, 1969, was Smithson’s first « flow », situated in an abandoned and mundane section of a gravel and dirt quarry in Rome. A large dumptruck released a load of asphalt down a gutted and gullied cliff already marked by time.
Smithson’s flow works, in Nancy Holt’s words are « entropy made visible ». Aside from Smithson’s interest in working outside of the gallery walls, he also had a strong interest in Jackson Pollock’s abstract expressionist works. It has been noted by Robert Hobbs that Smithson takes the drip away from the canvas and monumentalizes it in a slow ooze. Pollock, who moved the canvas off the easel and onto the floor understood the monumental gesture in his « action paintings ». Smithson, in Hobbs words, realized his own action painting outdoors. The flows were in some sense a homage to and walk away from the expressionist mark.