Artist in 60 Seconds: Robert Lobe

Robert Lobe - Invisible Earth, 2007
Robert Lobe (American, b. 1945). Invisible Earth, 2007. Heat-treated hammered aluminum. 9 x 5.5 x 13.5 feet. Courtesy of the artist.

Movement, Style, School or Type of Art:

Post-Minimalist Sculpture

Date and Place of Birth:

1945; Detroit, Michigan


Born in Michigan and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Robert Lobe has been a New York artist since 1967. After completing his undergraduate education at Oberlin College in Ohio, he headed east to Manhattan to study at Hunter College, a division of the City University of New York. And he stayed.

In the 1970s, he settled in a SoHo loft with his wife and fellow artist Kathleen Gilje when the neighborhood developed into an art gallery and artists colony. Most of the galleries are gone, but the survivors of gentrification remain a tight-knit group. Here this Post-Modernism generation established their reputations in the heart of a frantically changing art world. It was the new frontier and Lobe managed to make his mark early on.

The source of Lobe's renown is his signature sculptural style, based on the ancient repoussé process. Repoussé sculpture is made from pushing metal outward to achieve bas relief forms. Lobe discovered the technique while repairing his 1958 Aston Martin Mark III, using an old issue of Popular Mechanics for reference.

In addition to handmade sledges, Lobe depends on more advanced technology, such as pneumatic hammers which average 1500 strikes per minute and a fuel-powered air compressor.

The process alters the molecular structure of the aluminum, which is wrapped around a tree or boulder or other natural form.

The final result forms a shell, which appears to be the original's double. Small reliefs might require only one sheet of metal. Larger works require several repoussé segments which are then welded together.

The sculpture's surface receives additional tooling and manipulation to create a lively play of light all over the work.

Lobe's aluminum trees, boulders and other natural forms are hard to classify. Intuitive, rather than analytic, his departure from Minimalist sculpture from the 1960s and 1970s, seems akin to other explorations in material phenomenology. Therefore, we might call Lobe's work Post-Minimalist sculpture, a pushback from the impersonal "form exhaustion" (Jack Burham's term) of the Minimalist movement.

Other Post-Minimalist naturalist artists Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy and Mary Miss may not seem similar to Lobe, but they too are invested in capturing nature physically, spatially, contextually or organically. And their work, like Lobe's, looks best outside, surrounded by Mother Nature herself.

Important works:

Mother Maple, 1988.

Harmony Ridge series, 1993

Bucket with Abstraction, 1994

Awards and Grants:

  • National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (2)
  • Creative Artists Public Service Award
  • Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Grant
  • Pollack-Krasner Foundation Award.

Collections (selected list):

  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
  • National Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • Cleveland Museum of Art, OH
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
  • Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey
  • Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York
  • De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
  • Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio
  • Brooklyn Museum, New York
  • Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
  • Honolulu Academy of Art, Hawaii
  • Mihama-cho International Outdoor Sculpture Garden, Mihama-cho, Japan
  • Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.


Leffingwell, Edward, A Clearing in the Woods: Sculpture by Robert Lobe.
Katonah: Katonah Museum of Art, 2002.

Wei, Lilly, "Robert Lobe at the Katonah Museum,"
Art in America, June 2002, p. 131.

Johnson, Ken, "Robert Lobe," New York Times, June 16, 2000.

Burham, Jack, Beyond Modern Sculpture.

New York: George Braziller, 1968.

Gersh-Nesic, Beth. Robert Lobe Sculptures at Lux Art Institute, Encinitas, California., April 2010