THE BLOG
06/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What a Beautiful Day for Outdoor Sculpture!

Today, The Morton Arboretum is inaugurating an ambitious Sculpture Program on its verdant grounds with a robust show of at least a dozen major works by Steve Tobin.

It's a question of scale.

2010-04-08-stevetobinaskldas.jpg

How big the dream? How big the vision?

I met an Olympic athlete who this year - after pursuing gold for 17 years - won it. What kind of vision is that?

I speak to artists all the time about considering a larger purview than just the next piece. Look at the next 5 years. Or even project to a career. What are the good (copyable?) strategies?

2010-04-08-tbn98uhdhytu7.jpg

And then there's Steve Tobin. What possesses an artist to dream this big? And how does he pull it off?

I was sufficiently intrigued that I met him at one of his massive - I think the exhibition area was 30,000 square feet, not counting the several rail cars he had for his equally fascinating earlier work. Way out in the country. This isn't about the artworld. This is about art in the world. Physicality. Making a difference. Redefining space. Altering perceptions.

2010-04-08-stevetobinrtg789.jpg

Here I am telling artists to think in terms of half decades and Tobin's thinking in terms of centuries. Why else mortgage your house to build the tallest sculpture this side of Saarinen's Arch. Speaking of which, think about how looking up though sculpture defines the sky, the horizon, our relationship to it, perhaps our finiteness.

2010-04-08-stevetobinvghuikl.jpg

Tobin sees these elegant beacons of other familiarity as Steelroots. If you pay attention you can notice that most are topped by a stop. There are the essence of the underside of the glorious trees that grace(d) our landscape and Morton Arboretum. Literally, they raise our horizon and ask us to consider our role in nature anew.

This work is meant to be walked inside of, to be felt experientially, to see space observed through. These are remarkable pieces.

2010-04-08-stevetobinpmiu.jpg

I see them as big, graceful wooly mammoths, just hanging out. There's a bestiality to them. They're laden with history, aged, wrinkled, pockmarked, used and alive. They're bigger than anything(sculpture) I've ever seen like this before. I've twice made pilgrimages to France to see Mark di Suvero's work, and these are special in that kind of way. Maybe more so. There's an insane degree of difficultly in putting a 3 dimensional curve into a round piece of steel 50 feet long and 14 inches in diameter.

2010-04-08-stevetobin098h564ds.jpg

I'm impressed. Impressed with Steve Tobin and his art, his ability to dream an execute on the scale he does, and these pieces. I think they sing. How they hug the sky in the way that James Turrell does - and doesn't. And I'm impressed with the Morton Arboretum. Can you imagine the commitment it took to bring this steel herd across country on eight flat bed trucks and install it without leaving a footprint?

Are we lucky, or what?

Thank you!
Paul Klein

(All photographs courtesy of Steve Tobin and The Morton Arboretum.)