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A good show ends a good program–Robert Scobey at Freeman’s


Robert Scobey‘s ironic sculptures of the American Dream have a quirky idealism. This excellent work ends with a bang what was an annual opportunity for an outstanding graduate of the MFA program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Freeman‘s gave a monetary award to a second-year MFA at PAFA, followed by the opportunity to exhibit a year after graduation. This is the seventh Annual Samuel T. Freeman Memoial Scholarship Exhibition. Scobey said he was the last recipient of the annual scholarship/exhibition program, whose cancellation was announced at PAFA in 2009.  (Maybe it’s the economy — we hope it’ll be back because it’s a great opportunity for young artists and a wonderful scholarship – $10,000).

Robert Scobey, dishwasher/chandelier. Photo by Robert Scobey

Scobey (MFA, PAFA, 2009) has filled the downstairs space at Freeman’s auction house with his exhibit The Past Was Always Better.

Installation at Freeman’s. Photo by Robert Scobey

The show is dominated by a number of large sculptures–improbable mergers of appliances, a toilet, and other house accoutrements modified to  a cheerful uselessness. A bicycle powers an inaccessible deck on wheels. An air conditioner in a free-standing window cools a cooler. An umbrella drains into gutters and a downspout. If the pieces weren’t so funny, ingenious and charming they’d be dreams of a desperate homeowner trying to keep one step ahead of household disintegration.

Robert Scobey, cooler cooled by air conditioner.

On what at first blush seems an entirely different note, Scobey has filled the display cases at Freeman’s with carved-into books. He calls them landscapes, but they are mindscapes. Scobey has cut through the layers of images in a book to reveal in an instant the depths that normally get reached through time via the action of reading.

Robert Scobey, carved book

The resulting juxtapositions and forms are at once beautiful and provocative–and not so unlike the large sculptures. The book has lost its original use. But its modified form offers other meanings and views. Both the books and other sculptures offer a touch of nostalgia, but also a wiggy optimism, a belief that there are other ways to see.








The photo collages, also produced with a layering method similar to the one Scobey uses in the books, are not quite as impressive.  They lack the beauty (the lovely Miss June et. al. notwithstanding), and the juxtapositions seem to start with the idea, not with the images.

More pictures at Libby’s flickr and Roberta’s flickr.