Robert T. “Bob” Schuler, 92, an esteemed artist and teacher, died on December 3 from the effects of a massive stroke. But the completed portions of his signature work, the Tethys Project—a “subterranean necklace” of inscribed, 500-pound granite cubes that were designed to be buried every 100 miles in the world’s oceans— will long survive him; indeed, they may possibly outlast the pyramids, the Great Wall of China and human life on Earth.
A longtime resident of High Falls, Schuler was born in Milwaukee on October 9, 1925. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee.
From 1959 to 1976, Schuler taught at SUNY-New Paltz as a professor of printmaking. “He was much respected and beloved as a teacher, artist and as an outgoing, kind, and generous person,” said video artist Steven Kolpan, who, along with Schuler and the late Paul Ryan, formed Earthscore, a video collective, in the early 1970s. During his tenure at New Paltz, Schuler continued to show his work in art galleries and museums in New York City and throughout the United States. In addition to his prints, paintings and sculpture, he was a seminal and early performance artist, working closely with artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Nam June Paik, Charlotte Moorman, Trisha Brown, Alex Hay and many other world-renowned collaborators.
In 1986, Schuler began the Tethys Project, a sort of personal time capsule that would become his primary artistic endeavor for the rest of his life. Each side of each cube was incised (via sandblasting) with images, glyphs, poetic statements, as well as the latitude and longitude for each block—all created and designed by the artist. The idea was that the Tethys Project would be as close to a permanent artistic statement as possible, with the submerged granite blocks discovered hundreds or thousands of years from now, if then. At the time of his death, about 100 of his granite markers had been dropped every 100 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas, the Panama Canal and part of the Pacific Ocean. Plans are in place to continue the Tethys Project, hopefully to completion.
Schuler is survived by his partner, Nora Crain, who was by his side for more than 40 years, and his son, John Schuler, and John’s husband, Phillip Pinckney. His wife, Dorthy Schuler, predeceased him. He is also survived by an almost innumerable host of lifelong friends, upon whom he has left an indelible mark, and whose collective sense of loss is profound and palpable.
A celebration of his life and work will take place at a future date.