Robert
Lobe

Born 1945, Detroit, MI
Works in New York, NY

Year created:
1988
Environmental Impact Statement, Robert Lobe

Robert Lobe. Environmental Impact Statement. 1988. Hammered anodized aluminum. 24' x 7' 6" x 7' 6".

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24' x 7' 6" x 7' 6"

Hammered anodized aluminum
Gift of David A. Wilkinson

Using nature as a guide, Robert Lobe creates aluminum sculptures of boulders and trees, as he considers the relationship between manmade and organic forms. He first gained national recognition in 1969 when his Walk On sculptures were featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s exhibition Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials. To make these pieces, Lobe arranged rubber, wood, and rope on the floor to mimic trees or brush, which visitors could then walk across. The Walk On series demonstrates the sculptor’s early interest in creating environments that mirrored natural settings using humanmade materials. Since the early 1970s, Lobe has worked outdoors, typically within the forests of New Jersey and upstate New York. There, he collects materials, such as rocks, trees, and branches that he wraps in sheets of anodized or heat-treated aluminum. As a material with “artificial and industrial association[s], distinctly opposite that of weathered wood,” the aluminum, when presented in the likeness of organic objects, points to human intervention in the natural world. Using a hammer, Lobe repeatedly beats the metal until it conforms to the object underneath replicating its shape. Consequently, Lobe’s sculptures are a manifestation of a natural and necessary tension between the organic and inorganic, nature and industry, permanence and impermanence.

Environmental Impact Statement is one in a series of five large-scale sculptures that Lobe began in 1986. Made using his signature hammering process, the sculpted tree trunk and boulder mimic the form of their organic counterparts, but are stripped of their natural color and texture. Instead, their surfaces are metallic grey and covered by the incessant marks left behind by Lobe’s hammer. Despite the relationship to its surroundings, the aluminum sculpture feels out of place when juxtaposed with the deCordova’s thick, green foliage. The contrast between sculpture and site intensifies as viewers draw closer and see the casts’ bolts and seams, which Lobe intentionally left visible. What appears solid from afar is revealed as a hollow shell. By adapting the organic tree trunk and boulder into industrial objects that are then placed back outdoors, Environmental Impact Statement visualizes how humans control and redefine the landscape. Furthermore, as its title suggests, the sculpture warns viewers to consider their impact on the environment. Like a death mask or effigy of the natural form, the sculpture foreshadows a bleak future.

Lobe was born in Detroit, MI, in 1945 and grew up in Cleveland, OH. He received his BA from Oberlin College, where he studied art from 1963 to 1967, before pursuing post-graduate work at Hunter College from 1967 to 1968. His work is included in major collections across the country, including the San Francisco Museum of Art, CA; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY: National Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and Cleveland Museum of Art, OH. He has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, two grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and a Creative Artists Public Service Award.