Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Robert B. Howard

"Multiple Compass" - Robert B. Howard                        Photo by Ian Reeves
I really like this mobile by Robert Boardman Howard (1896 - 1983).  This article describes the propeller-like sculpture as being black, with dark blue blotches painted on it, suggesting the markings on military aircraft.

Here is another one of his sculptures at the San Francisco MOMA:

This sculpture is entitled "Ram".  The photo does not convey the mammoth size of this sculpture, which is listed in the SFMOMA website as being 117 inches (nearly 10 feet) tall!  It appears that the three-legged geometric shape is free to rotate on the bulbous black base.

Here is another sculpture in wood, also at the SFMOMA, which I like the best of the three.  It is called "Semaphore".

photo by Marsi - via Flickr

Here is a picture that I found of a party in his studio.  You can see some interesting mobiles and stabiles.  Hey, that guy on drums looks like Bobby Kennedy!

I've tried to find more information about this artist via the Internet without much success.  Wikipedia mentions his name as being one of the Coit Tower muralists from the California School of Fine Arts.  Since there is also a painting in the holdings at the SFMOMA I suspect this is the same artist.  I also found this memorial on the Internet but it appears to be about another artist with the same name - his birth/death dates do not match the dates listed in SFMOMA and there is no mention of Coit Tower or any involvement with San Francisco.

Do you know anything about Robert B. Howard?   Leave a comment if you do!


  1. I love the mobile cause they are unique and I am a father of two and I wish that I would have seen this earlier cause they are awsome.


    He did these too. On the "Mission Substation" at 8th and Mission, San Francisco. (1948.)


  4. Robert B. Howard also created the kinetic work "Hydrogyro" for the reflecting pools at the plaza of the IBM San Jose Western Research Center at 5600 Cottle Road. The now desolate and empty pool is on the grounds of the remains of Building 011, the campus cafeteria, now mothballed and awaiting uncertain restoration. A plaque near the sculpture's installation location reads " determine if he creates, invents, discovers, or is guided into what he thinks he knows and believes."

    Photographer Bob Shomler has a webpage devoted to some photos of the bldg. 011 plaza - and "Hydrogyro" prominently - entitled "IBM San Jose Campus 1963; Exterior Art and Architecture" currently located at this URL:

    The buildings were designed by John Savage Bolles (architect also of Candlestick Park) and completed in 1958.

    Among other distinctions (the modern magnetic disk memory file - the "hard disk drive" was developed here), the SJWRC was one of the sites visited by Nikita Khrushchev on his tour of the nation in September 1959; he ate lunch with factory employees, having chosen for himself the self-serve 49-cent special, "chicken in a basket".

    Another beautiful view from the rooftop of bldg. 011, of this legitimate mid-century masterpiece (thought to be a photograph by Ansel Adams c. 1958) may be seen at the website of Northern California Docomomo, here:

    Google maps satellite view reveals the disassembled rotors of "Hydrogyro" next to the empty reflecting pools at these coordinates:


  5. Very interesting information...thanks!

  6. The bird sculpture in the photo used to be at the entrance to crown college, UC Santa Cruz

  7. Robert was the older brother of Charles Houghton Howard, currently the subject of a retrospective at BAMFA - they were two of the three sons of the Principal Architect for Berkeley.