Since the 1970s Robert Gober has been exploring sexuality, politics, religion, and nature in meticulously handcrafted work. Early in his career The New York Times described his sculptures as “minimal forms with maximum content.” In Gober’s art even the most seemingly commonplace object — a shoe, an armchair, a bag of cat litter — contains multiple meanings and implications. The foundation of his practice is the physical act of making, which for Gober can entail learning a new craft, sourcing materials and knowledge, and enduring long periods of trial and error. While his work addresses universal themes of loss, longing, and acceptance, his personal experiences deeply inform his art, charging each work with an acute sense of intimacy.
This survey of Gober’s work includes twenty sculptures, photographs, drawings, and prints made over the past four decades, from a 1976 photograph to a recent drawing, and focuses on some of the artist’s most iconic motifs and imagery, including newspapers, food, trees, and the human body.
Gober began his celebrated series of sink sculptures in 1984. The following year, when this drawing was made, he began distorting the forms of his sinks with a more complicated production process. The zigzagging sink seen in Untitled resembles The Inverted Sink (1985), now in the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.
Graphite on paper
“Roots, branches, and leaves are common, usually romantic, metaphors in song and poetry. In Gober’s sculptures the enduring tree is a key player in a tragic universe.” —Brenda Richardson
Graphite on paper in artist’s frame
“The artist’s uncannily accurate, detailed re-creations of material facts from the everyday world are to varying degrees discomfiting and functionless versions of their originals. As such they take on a primarily symbolic role. His pieces are always ciphers of memory and loss, memory and regret, humor and pathos.” —James Rondeau
Cast plaster, vinyl-acrylic, graphite, ink
“When I first saw the wallpaper, it seemed to go on and on, which meant that the vulnerability of that sleeping man and the vulnerability of that murdered body went on and on, too. There was no getting any distance from it. Sometimes, when I look at a work of art, the hard thing that an artist is saying about place or history, or their combined effects on the body and on the psyche, becomes glossed over, worked out in such a way that I can ‘take it.’ I couldn’t take Gober’s work, not at first. The coolness of his palette, the clinical nature of his creations, only made it harder to recover from. The beauty of his line confused me; did it express a distance from or a triumph over the chaos of the times?” —Hilton Als
Hanging Man/Sleeping Man,
Hand-printed silkscreen on paper
Gober’s sculptures of bundled newspapers from 1992 are some of his most iconic artworks. Made during a time of political upheaval, they often feature articles and images that highlight the concerns of the day. Newspaper features the table of contents from an issue of The Village Voice published shortly after artist David Wojnarowicz’s death from AIDS-related illness.
Photolithography on archival Mohawk Superfine paper, twine
“By placing this somewhat inhuman letter within my open hand, I was, I felt, able to both object to and protect the right to express this piece of thinking.”
“If I could be worried about mud-slinging, I would have been dead long ago.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
Glazed porcelain with imbedded pigments,
brass, paper, artist’s frame