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Indepth Arts News:

"ROBERT GOBER: Sculpture + Drawing"
2000-06-09 until 2000-09-05
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco, CA, USA

Organized by the Walker Art Center, this first large-scale overview of Gober's oeuvre juxtaposes more than 100 drawings with examples of his sculpture, illuminating the complex psychological and formal roots of this important contemporary artist's work. Grappling with themes of childhood, memory, loss and sexuality, Gober explores a variety of mediums that probe the legacies of Surrealism, Minimalism and Conceptualism.

Robert Gober is a uniquely American artist. His images evolve from our everyday domestic lives and are transformed into haunting objects that live in the twilight separating the actual from the dreamed. In his sculptures, the ordinary becomes slightly strange, and a subtle dose of unease is injected into the mundane.

Born in Wallingford, Connecticut, in 1954, the artist attended Middlebury College in Vermont before moving to Manhattan in 1976. While his original ambition was to be a painter, he abandoned this goal in 1983 and turned his attention to sculpture. He first came to prominence as an artist in the mid-1980s, with a body of work that explored countless variations on the form of a simple domestic sink. Since then his work has rarely strayed from the portrayal of easily recognizable subjects, such as drains, doors, children's furniture, and the human body. However, Gober's sculpture is never precisely what it appears to be, and he uses its apparent simplicity to explore such complex themes as childhood, home, sexuality, victimization, religion, and transcendence.

Robert Gober: Sculpture + Drawing examines the artist's vocabulary of forms, and the recurrence of certain images throughout his entire body of work. While this exhibition provides a visible link between his use of sculpture and drawing, it also brings into focus his unique personal archive of subject matter and the tenacity with which he expands upon it. By repeatedly reworking his source imagery, Gober transposes his iconic forms from the realm of the recognizable into that of the profoundly enigmatic.

Drawing has been an integral part of Robert Gober's sculptural practice since the early 1980s. He has used this medium very specifically as a tool for actualizing ideas, for working out the physical appearance of the forms running through his mind. The drawings in this exhibition have most often been rendered prior to or concurrent with the fabrication of a sculpture, but occasionally Gober creates them after the sculpture has been completed. While he often uses this medium to figure out which possible variations of a form to pursue in three dimensions, his drawings should not be necessarily be thought of as studies for their sculptural relatives.

Throughout his increasingly diverse body of drawings and sculptures, Gober exhibits a fascination with the formal and psychological resonance of the commonplace. Sometimes images appear only once in his drawings. In other instances, as in his series of sink drawings, Gober conducts a more obsessive and sustained investigation.

Issues of representation and scale can be seen in models for sculptures of a sink drain, a crib, and a stick of butter. The resulting works offer no indication of the complex process by which they were created. A sculpture entitled Bag of Donuts (1989), for instance, presents itself as a simple replica of its subject. In reality, the artist went through a meticulous process of deep-frying, degreasing, and scientifically stabilizing the donuts, as well as hand-crafting the paper bag that contains them. In Gober's work, there is a continual tension between what an object appears to be and what it actually is, a congenial opposition of the familiar and the irrational.

Robert Gober
Wax, cotton, wood,
leather shoe and human hair
10-3/4 x 20-1/2 x 5-5/8
Coll: Hirshhorn Museum
and Sculpture Garden
Photo credit:
Lee Stalsworth/Ricardo Blanc

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