San Francisco

Robert B. Howard

Howard pioneered the use of polyester resin and fibre glass shell forms in sculpture and is noted for his delicately balanced and beautifully articulated and engineered stabiles. Many excellent examples of his work can be found in public and private institutions in northern California. In his current exhibition he shows a small number of typical works including a further innovation, the floating stabile. He controls the materials and forms admirably, particularly in his use of low-keyed earth colors to tone the plastic material of the sculpture. Apart from some dubious low relief linear decorations on the piece entitled “Napa-Napa,” his work is very much in the spirit of the times. Why, then, does it fail to engage one at those deep and complex levels that we demand of a work of art? For Howard’s exhibition poses once more the whole question of content in art. A good and sincere man with not only a deep love for art, but also a very inventive mind, he appears to work out of a sense of duty and habit rather than passion and excitement. Is it sufficient for an artist to be a deeply perceptive and loving observer? Must he not live in a completely existential pattern of life to jump inside and become part of art? Is not the content of a work of art the artist himself?

John Coplans