If you have an extra couple of hours in the next few weeks, you could do worse than spending them perusing a delightful show, at the Hallie Ford Museum, of the works of Robert Bibler, well-known Salem artist, teacher, and film aficionado.

The “Works on Paper” exhibit fills only two rooms, but a full examination of Bibler’s work will take some time.  The pieces are multi-dimensional, drawing the viewer in: the artist’s layered use of media underscores layers of meaning.   In a single piece, Bibler may use pen and ink, watercolor, Conti crayon, oil, colored pencil or collage.  Images are placed atop of one another; looking through glass we see a palimpsest of views and figures: classical drawings, images glued upon images, snippets from old films.  The viewer can spend a long time looking at a single piece and still find surprises. Glass is a recurring motif in Beibler’s work: layered, reflective, transparent, clouded; bottles and stoppers distort what lies beyond or underneath, a grid of greenhouse glass encloses a world, or is placed as a frame between the viewer and the scene beyond.

I was especially taken with his meticulous interpretation of Renaissance red-chalk drawings; as homage to Michelangelo and daVinci, Bibler “quotes” from these classic drawings in many of his works, angling and turning portions of the masters’ sketches to serve as background and support of his own vision.  Many of his pieces seem almost to mourn the passing of classical art: I was particularly taken with one painting, “The Submersion,” in which a modern figure gazes into a pool at a submerged Corinthian capital while a hook and tackle seems ready to rescue the marble column from sinking.

Bibler is a superb draughtsman; it is a joy to view modern representational works executed with such mastery of technique.  In a more modern twist, this classic technique is put to use in the service of symbolism in surreal, dream-like narratives that transcend space and time.  If you have the chance, attend one of his Tuesday “Gallery Talks,” on June 5 or June 19.  I found his explication of his work added a lot to my enjoyment and understanding of the exhibit.

The exhibit was arranged by Collection Curator Jonathan Bucci, and features forty years of drawings and mixed media works on paper, from 1974 2017. The artist lives in Salem, Oregon, and taught studio art and film studies at Chemeketa Community College. He also brought classic and contemporary films to Salem as Coordinator of the Wednesday Evening Film Series. Bibler has exhibited extensively in the Pacific Northwest and his work is included in public and private collections throughout the region, including the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. He earned his BFA degree from the University of Washington and his MFA degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University

May 12 – July 15, 2018


Photo above: Immersion / Reflection #4, Mixed media drawing and collage on tan paper22.5″ x 30″,© Robert Bibler 1994