Robert Lobe’s exhibition of sculptures in Prospect Park, NY, Nature in Nature features three works, Invisible Earth, Antique Jenny and Nature’s Clock. Lobe uses a variation of the ancient metalworking technique repoussé, in which metal is hammered around an object to obtain shapes and patterns. He encases trees and boulders in malleable aluminum, and with countless mallet strikes and a pneumatic air compressor, he gathers and tools the metal snugly around their shapes. This unique process enhances the textures and shadowy contours of the life-sized sculptures, blurring the line between abstraction and realism.
The sculptures are sited in the heart of a masterpiece of landscape art designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Invisible Earth captures a composition of precarious balance and has been situated for maximum effect in a spectacular setting within the Lullwater—seemingly hovering over its reflective surface. Nearby at the man-made Binnen Falls, Nature’s Clock, the largest of the three sculptures, is stationed on a hillock, which mimics the sloped terrain of the Appalachian Trail, whose forest detritus originally inspired Lobe to create the sculpture. Emerging from beneath the Cleft Ridge Span, park goers will confront Antique Jenny on a grassy triangular intersection just south of the Boathouse. Located across from the park’s notable ancient tree the Camperdown Elm (made famous in the poem by Marianne Moore), the sculpture also overlooks the Boathouse and Lullwater.
Lobe celebrates nature’s resources and our reliance on them since prehistoric times. Lobe reflects on geographical, historical and mythological representations of the natural world, including the tradition of Romantic landscape painting in American art. These hollow reliefs also allude to the less bucolic 17th century vanitas or still-life paintings that addressed life’s emptiness and decay. Lobe embraces nature while using materials that contrast with his subject. He stitches together metal sheets and leaves exposed the joints, seams and bolts, revealing the underlying beauty of his sculpture’s mechanical construction.
On view from May 14, through November 2011. The exhibition is supported by New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation and the Prospect Park Alliance. Since 1967, collaborations with arts organisations and artists have produced hundreds of public art projects in New York City parks – previous artists to exhibit in Prospect Park, include Roxy Paine, Mark Di Suvero, Melinda Hunt, and Steve Tobin.