For anyone who missed the incredible New Jersey showing of Steve Tobin’s work at Grounds for Sculpture (GFS) in 2012, the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown offers another chance to view art by this Bucks County native, including the massive Steelroots that dominated the GFS outdoor sculpture garden.
The Michener’s show opens this Saturday, June 28, and continues through October 26. It’s title, “Out of This World: Works by Steve Tobin,” reflects the choice of monumental works in steel, bronze, and clay.
The exhibition features a broad range of the work Mr. Tobin has produced during the last decade including Exploded Earth Vessels, and Forest Floors from his Earth Bronzes series.
Curated by Museum Director and CEO, Lisa Tremper Hanover, the exhibition takes the Michener beyond its usual location and out into the community. In addition to works on view in the Paton/Smith/Della Penna-Fernberger Galleries, the Fred Beans Gallery, the Sculpture Garden and as part of the Outdoor Sculpture Program, the exhibition includes outdoor placements throughout Doylestown. Playing on the sheer size of Mr. Tobin’s works, Ms. Hanover has turned Doylestown into a museum by placing his Steelroots and Walking Roots in the town.
With the cooperation of George Ball, chairman and CEO of W. Atlee Burpee Company, she has also brought sculpture to the grounds and gardens of the nearby Fordhook Farm.
As part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program, free passes to Fordham Farm will be available from the museum on the opening day of the exhibition with the cost of general admission.
Mr. Tobin is perhaps best known for his epic work, Trinity Root, permanently sited at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway in Lower Manhattan. He cast the root system of the 80-year-old Sycamore tree that had stood across the street from the World Trade Center in the churchyard of the Trinity/St. Paul’s Chapel. First responders to Ground Zero had taken shelter there. Dedicated on the anniversary of 9/11 in 2005, the sculpture was “a massive undertaking of 20,000 man hours,” recalled Tobin in an interview for Princeton Magazine in 2012. “It incorporates the dirt and DNA of that place.”
Mr. Tobin’s work has been shown at numerous museums and outdoor venues across the country in New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco. His larger pieces reference Stonehenge and the monuments of Easter Island and the Great Pyramids.
Initially trained as a scientist, Mr. Tobin has described his work as closer to visual philosophy than art history. After graduating from Tulane University in 1979 with a Bachelor’s in mathematics, he studied glassmaking at the Pilchuck Glass School, founded by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly and others. In 1989, he became the first foreigner invited to build his own studio in Murano, Italy. By 1994, he was building his first foundry and casting in bronze.
Of the Michener show, Ms. Hanover said: “The soaring steel sculptures echo the stretched elegance of his early glass work; and the Earth Bronzes are filled with whimsy and capture the residue of a forest floor, complete with pine needles and insects. Visitors will be confronted with an array of exploded clay vessels that reveal majestic interiors of glass and dynamite-incised textures.”
Mr. Tobin has exhibited extensively throughout the world, including New York’s American Museum of Natural History; the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art campus complex in Los Angeles; and in museums, art fairs, and public sites in Italy, Russia, China, and Finland.
“I thank Lisa and the Michener for the opportunity of bringing it all back home,” said Tobin. “While my work has taken me far and wide, from the deserts of Ghana to the caves of Nutijarva in Finland, its genesis and inspiration originated in the treehouse of my youth, along Philadelphia’s Main Line.”
“The long arc of Steve Tobin’s success will be celebrated at the Michener with a dynamic installation that recalls his own roots in Bucks County and the Philadelphia region,” said Ms. Hanover. “We are proud to present Tobin’s work … to an audience eager to interact with articulate and engaging artists.”
“Out of This World: Works by Steve Tobin” is supported by Visit Bucks County and an anonymous friend of the Michener. Along with the show, there will be a lecture about the artist’s work on July 22; tours of his Quakertown studio on August 21 and September 5; and contemporary dance performances on August 27 and September 21.
The James A. Michener Art Museum is located at 138 South Pine Street, Doylestown, Pa. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. from 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call (215) 340-9800, or visit www.michenerartmuseum.org.