Bob Emser - American Sculptor
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Aerodrome takes Flight at Bradley University

By LESLIE RENKEN of the Journal Star
Posted Nov. 15, 2014

Sculptor Bob Emser is planning an event to reignite the fascination for flight.

At the opening reception of his show “Aerodrome” at Bradley University’s Heuser Art Gallery Friday there will be fanciful flying machines, stewardesses and pilots clad in vintage uniforms, and little bags of peanuts served with the beverage of your choice.

“If you don’t come to the opening, you will miss a big part of the exhibit,” said Emser while sitting in his Eureka studio recently. “Everyone is encouraged to come to the opening wearing vintage air travel clothing.”

Bob Emser fondly recalls his first airplane ride in 1968 — his family took a trip to the Bahamas when he was 14.

“I’m old enough to remember when you didn’t get on an airplane unless you were dressed up,” said Emser while sitting in his Eureka studio recently. “We literally went out and bought new suits for me and my brother for the trip.”

Flying was an event. It was elegant. It was fun. In the process of recreating the excitement people felt when flight was new, Emser will also be presenting the gallery opening in a new light — no longer an event where guests speak in hushed tones while struggling to understand abstract artwork dotting the gallery, the opening will be a festive, interactive affair with art that references memories most people can relate to.

Emser has been making flight-inspired artwork his whole life, starting with the balsa wood airplane models he made as a kid. Through most of his professional career, Emser created abstract forms that referenced the aerodynamic wings of airplanes, but the subject of flight was not overt.

It’s only been in the last few years that Emser’s work has become literal. In 2012 he received a lot of attention when he exhibited a giant replica of a balsa-wood glider in a Chicago commuter’s plaza. The praise prompted him to follow his heart. He is again building airplanes, rocket ships, and dirigibles — anything to do with flight.

“The art world has changed a lot from when I started,” said Emser. “I think, in general, there’s a whole lot more narrative art being produced. In my work, my focus has narrowed, but my audience has broadened.”

While Emser’s recent work speaks to the inner child, the art is not constructed in balsa wood and glue. Emser is using the materials of a master builder. “My Rocket” is made from brightly polished aluminum and Brazilian cherry. To create compound curves in sheet metal, the artist learned how to use a specialized metalworking tool called an English wheel. Also built from sheets of 16 gauge aluminum, “Lady Electra” is held together with rivets. A replica of the airplane Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean in 1937, “Lady Electra” is the front portion of the plane complete with spinning propellers.

“Students will be painting the wall sky blue with clouds, and ‘Lady Electra’ will be coming out of the wall for ‘Aerodrome,’ ” said Emser, who is doing the exhibit at Bradley as the culmination of two years as artist-in-residence there. Several of the pieces in the show were created with student assistance — part of his job was to show students how a professional artist works.

“The series of glider planes hanging in the Caterpillar Global Communication Center were built with the help of advanced students who came out to my studio every Saturday for a semester,” said Emser. “The idea was to show them how to complete an art commission, from beginning to end.”

Emser is currently in the process of building new pieces for the show — a dirigible to hang in the gallery lobby, and a rolling staircase like those which allow passengers to de-plane onto the airport tarmac.

“I got the idea from a photo of the Beatles when they came to America for the first time,” said Emser. “People will be able to walk up the staircase and peer through a window at a three-minute video on an iPad.” The video will show vintage flight-related footage with sound transmitted through an old telephone handset. A soundtrack of ambient noise from an airport of the 1960s will be played in the gallery.

“There will be jets flying overhead, announcements over the intercom, and the sound of prop planes starting up,” said Emser. When the opening is over, the soundtrack will continue to play in the gallery until the exhibit comes down. But Emser encourages everyone to attend the opening. Just like the art displayed there, it will be entertaining and comprehensible for everyone.

“An opening shouldn’t be hoity-toity,” said Emser. “It should be fun.”



July 20 - August 26, 2012

PostcardJune 15, 2012 Brooklyn, NY - Causey Contemporary is pleased to announce the opening of their summer exhibition, Boys with Toys, featuring sculpture of Bob Emser and 8 other sculptors. The exhibition opens on July 20th and runs through August 26, 2012. There will be an opening reception with the artists on July 20th from 6 - 9 p.m.  A panel discussion will be held on  August 10, 2012 from 6-9 p.m, where the artists will confer about sculpture in public environments.  Gallery hours for this exhibition will be Wed-Fri, 11-6 p.m, Sat-Sun 12-6 p.m.

Curator Tracy Causey-Jeffery selected the nine artists included in the exhibition after viewing the portfolios of over 500 members of the International Sculpture Center organization. Specifically, having worked with sculptors over the course of her eighteen year career as a gallery owner and director, she had come to understand that often male sculptors who work monumentally view their equipment as their toys, thus the name of this summer exhibition.  Ms Causey-Jeffery’s other criteria  was that the works included in the exhibition be fabricated by the sculptor’s own hand and made in large part from steel.  Other additional materials were allowed if used to enhance the fundamental steel structure.   

In addition to Bob Emser, the artists in Boys with Toys include three New York based artists, Norman Mooney, Arthur Mednick and Gunnar Theel; two artists from the Maryland-D.C. Area, Alan Binstock and Steven Dobbin; one from Rhode Island, Jerry Ehrlich; one other artist from the Midwest John J. Richardson and one artist from California, Michael Whiting. Each of these sculptors brings their own aesthetic and dynamic to the exhibition.

For more information on the exhibition or the sculptors involved, please contact the gallery at 718-218-8939 or via email at




April 2012


KAT installationKnoxville, Tenn. – Knoxville Area Transit (KAT) is pleased to announce the installation of a suspended kinetic sculptural group by Chicago sculptor Bob Emser. The installation consists of 5 suspended sculptures. The 5 unique sculptures range in size from 6 feet in diameter to 2 feet, and hang in the 40-foot tall main entryway of the new Knoxville Station.


Located at 301 Church Avenue, the Knoxville Station is a hub for the city’s mass transit community carrying over 3 million passenger trips per year, providing an off-street transfer location, a customer service counter, climate-controlled waiting areas, electronic next-bus arrival screens, vending, and a training and outreach center. Knoxville Station, with its modern design and environmental features, is a landmark and gateway to downtown Knoxville and beyond. KAT is the City of Knoxville’s transit system. Knoxville recently opened Knoxville Station, the City of Knoxville’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified government building.



Fifth Biennial Sculpture Exhibition

January 2012

Wind GapChattanooga, Tenn. – Public Art Chattanooga (PAC) is pleased to announce the installation of Bob Emser’s sculpture, Wind Gap, for the Fifth Biennial Sculpture Exhibition, a rotating exhibition that will be on view from December 2011 to May 2013.  Emser is one of seven artists chosen from six states. Wind Gap is placed along First Street and can be seen from the front of the Hunter Museum of Art.

An art selection panel composed of members of the mayor-appointed Public Art Committee reviewed 255 proposals submitted by 100 artists from across the United States.

Bob Emser’s studio is located in Eureka Illinois. He is an internationally recognized sculptor, having shown on 4 continents, 7 countries and 27 states in the U.S. His extensive body of work, dating back to 1978, can be seen in cities and municipalities, sculpture parks, museums and institutions of higher learning. He was the founding president of Chicago Sculpture International, the local affiliate of International Sculpture Center, on whose Board of Directors he has served.  Emser focuses his full time efforts creating sculptures for public and private spaces.

Initiated in 2005, the Sculpture Biennial continues to be an important part of Chattanooga’s growing public art program.  On view through May 2013, these pieces will join Chattanooga's public art collection, which is comprised of 25 temporary and 125 permanent pieces.


Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park Board Member Receives Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant

Friday, 30 July 2010


Photo of Bob Emser with sculpture


University Park, IL– The board of Governors State University’s Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park (NMSP) works hard to build interest in the park throughout Chicagoland region. NMSP board member Bob Emser’s reach extends well beyond the region as he develops his career in the art world.

Emser is a professional sculptor who recently received a prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant for support of his career.

The Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant is awarded annually to artists whose work demonstrates significant promise and who have financial need. Over $2 million was awarded during the 2008-09 fiscal year by the foundation, which is named for Jackson Pollock and his artist/wife Lee Krasner, two pioneers of American abstract art. “Bob’s intensity, drive, and focus are bringing him the recognition he deserves,” said Geoffrey Bates, Director and Curator of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park. “His work on behalf of the NMSP has been tireless and we, at the park, are both proud and excited to be able to name him as one of our founding board members.”

Emser is currently exhibiting his work in “Encounters,” an exhibition of sculpture sited on Governor’s Island in New York harbor (through October 12), and recently completed a major commission for the city of Bellaire Bluffs, Florida.


The Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park is located at Governors State University’s main campus in University Park. The park is free of charge and open from dawn to dusk 365 days a year. For more information about the sculpture park, visit or call (708) 534-4486.




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