New York

Robert Cronin and Robert Lobe

Zabriskie Gallery

The light, tentative quality of Robert Cronin’s work, on the other hand, is a specific, deliberate physical quality. His small sculptures are made of thin, natural reed which turns, twists, circles and is tied into linear wall pieces. Cronin’s material allows him total freedom from weight and materiality, yet the pieces have a real, physical energy and sufficiency, as if they generated themselves. The continuous line and the ways in which the pieces change when viewed from different angles create the impression of movement, as if the generating process were ongoing. The configurations are suited to and result from the tautness and flexibility of the reed and its ability to remain curved and rigid under stress. The energy counters the sense of fragility, just as their unaccountable, asymmetrical lyricism separates them from notions of craft which are inherent in the material. Several of these pieces were crowded together on one wall, probably due to limited space. But the crowding also underestimates their ability to dominate larger areas, to be as full as possible.

In another group of work, Cronin pursues the craft potential in his material. Combining the reed with string, beads, leather, these objects result more visibly from craft, from work, and suggest some unknown function or ritual. Occasionally, as in a large piece using chamois, Cronin’s eccentric, useless shape prevails. Too often, however, they do not work in any way; they seem functionally and esthetically purposeless, weightless without being energetic. Cronin’s increased involvement with labor and material only makes the pieces more anonymous and vague.

Movement, more dramatic, planar as well as linear, is an important aspect of Robert Lobe’s laminated wood sculpture. Lobe’s structures seem monolithic but they never are; they are not completely visible from any one point. Movement around them reveals that they are combinations of two or more volumes which are themselves sharply and asymmetrically truncated. These unexpected shifts of volume and plane create an illusion of speed, something like di Suvero, only boarded up. The speed and the shifts are increased by the “boarding,” by the way in which Lobe laminates his forms. Each plane has a specific direction and width of lamination, its own separate, acutely diminishing perspective. The way a piece unexpectedly ends or extends, the way a plane just dives out of sight, make the best pieces go in several directions at once, disregarding gravity. There is no up or down, the work might continue through the floor.

All this activity is countered by the solid closed forms and their size. They are momentarily mysterious and ultimately comprehensible, but they do not yield a visual whole as much as they are thought through to wholeness, plane by plane, edge by edge, volume against volume. Lobe’s ability to shatter and open up a solid form is both interesting and somewhat frustrating. The work denies its wholeness but does not really open up. The denial is constricted; it lacks the expansiveness and the scale of di Suvero or Serra who also deliberately avoid a single view. Generally, this multiplicity of views is more interesting and advanced than their condensation into a single object. It is the latter which keeps Lobe’s work, competent and convincing as it is, within a familiar sculptural tradition.

Roberta Smith