Robert Lyall “Bob” Flock was one of the most vigorous artists in our region. He transferred his physical dynamism onto canvas and paper in artworks that reflected both his inner emotions and the vigor of landscapes in Western New York and Ontario, Canada. His depiction of Niagara Falls is almost synesthetic. He made the hypnotizing power of water crashing onto boulders more intense by resisting the stereotypical use of rainbows. Instead, Flock’s light refracts into dissonant forms, thick wedges, spiraling lines and stippled notes as if musical notations were torn from a behemoth’s score to play in another dimension. He evokes the awesome, thunderous roar to illustrate the eerily named Devil’s Hole.
Camaraderie among his sketching companions Robert Baeumler, James Vullo, and Roland Wise facilitated their stylistically distinctive interpretations of the Niagara Glen, one of their favorite sites. Their drawings were exhibited together in 1982. All of them were teachers as well as practicing artists—and each, to a greater or lesser extent, taught at Buffalo State College. Quiet, brooding personalities balanced the more ebullient ones. They respected each other’s work, pursuing their own directions by contrasting with their colleagues. Flock’s students also appreciated his guidance and encouragement.
Rather than use “Untitled,” Bob often used “Work” as the title for his ongoing series of large-scale paintings. In 1991, Charles Rand Penney donated the first painting to the collection. In a remarkable gesture of generosity, the artist invited staff to visit his studio in 2011 to pick a wide selection of works to represent his career. His magnificent gift included 118 works in mixed media, as well as his sketchbooks from Korea, and archival materials, as unique as cow markers that he used in drawing rural landscapes. The Burchfield Penney Art Center is honored to be the institution of record for Robert Lyall Flock. This exhibition reveals a few of those new acquisitions for the first time.