Robert Gober - Untitled, 1984 - Image via nyoobserver Without the use of privacy policy terms in a museum or gallery view

Robert Gober/ Robert Gober

United States 1954

Installation, Sculpture

Robert Gober
Robert Gober
Male
United States
1954

An uncrowned master of making ordinary and familiar elements of our lives feel strange and completely out of place, Robert Gober is an American artist who produces unique sculpted and installation works. Exploring challenging themes familiar to all of us, such as the concepts of family, religion, sexuality, isolation and memory, this author injects a strong psychological weight into everything that comes out of his studio. Gober creates seemingly simplistic pieces of art from beds, sinks, containers of cat litter, plastic torsos and legs, candles, crucifixes and church pews. All of these things are pretty much common to all of us to some extent as we face them on a regular basis. However, after Robert finishes his artistic processes of exaggeration, alterations and narrative juxtapositions, all of these things we saw as ordinary suddenly take on a new surreal note that fascinates, disturbs and disorients the viewer, forcing him to ask questions without bothering to give him another option.

The 1989 untitled collection in the American modern museum falls under the privacy policy terms
Robert Gober – The heart is not a metaphor, 2014 – Image via pinterest.com

From a Life of a Carpenter to a Visual Artist

Robert Gober was born in the town of Wallingford, Connecticut, during the year of 1954. He displayed a tendency towards creative thinking from a very early age. When he got to a point of his life when he needed to make a choice what he will study at college, young Robert decided to attend classes concerning literature and then later fine arts. He was a student of the Middlebury College in Vermont and the Tyler School of Art in Rome, both very prestigious institutions. During the year of 1976, Gober relocated himself to the metropolis of New York City, initially making a living by working as a carpenter. As an additional source of income, Robert worked as an assistant to the painter Elizabeth Murray for full five years, an experience that served him very well in the long run[1]. And during all that time, he constantly thought about his own personal creative expressions that needed to be as radically different from anything else on the scene of New York as possible[2]. Right from the bat, Gober’s work was closely related to domestic and familiar objects such as sinks, door and even legs – elements of our life that we depend so much on and yet oftentimes take them for granted. Over time, Robert got good at using these objects to challenge larger aspects of our existence, such as nature, sexuality, religion and politics. Unsurprising due to the fact he was a carpenter for a long period of time, all of this artist’s pieces are meticulously handcrafted despite the fact they appear to be just re-creations of common objects – a feature that is precisely one of the main ideas behind Robert’s creations.

Robert Gober - X Playpen Gallery View in Use, 1987 - Image via artblastcom
Robert Gober – X Playpen, 1987 – Image via artblast.com

Later Years, Artworks and Successes

Although Robert Gober is primarily known for the aforementioned type of pieces, this author has also made photographs, prints and drawings[3], usually intended to be additions to his installations. In 1982, he created Slides of a Changing Painting, an artwork consisting of 89 images of paintings made on a small piece of plywood. About that time, Robert authored one of his other known series as well – more than 50 increasingly eccentric sinks made out of plaster, wood, wire lath and coated in layers of semi-gloss enamel. In the year of 1984, the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York hosted Gober’s first solo exhibition. The first museum exhibition in The Art Institute of Chicago came to be four years later. Robert has since had exhibitions of his work in various institutions around Europe and North America. By the end of the 1980s, Gober was casting beeswax into sculptures imitating men’s legs that had shoes and trousers as well. Sometimes, the author would also add human hair to these pieces. It should be noted that the work of Robert Gober was featured in five Whitney Biennials. Putting that aside, his art was the focal point of many different shows and exhibitions throughout the 2000s[4] as the interest in the art of Gober never truly started to wear off[5].

Robert Gober is a master of transforming ordinary and familiar objects into surreal pieces of art that question many aspects of our existence

American Whitney modern museum has an untitled collection on view in a gallery
Robert Gober – Untitled Leg, 1989 – Image via pinterest.com

Robert Gober, The Master of Transformation

Although the layman viewing of the art of Robert Gober leaves an impression that this kind of work is easy to create due to the lack of conventional artistic mastery, this can not be any further from the truth. These are meticulously crafted works that utilize objects we see all around us in a new light, a special perspective none of us even knew existed. It’s extremely hard to maintain that kind of outlook towards the world surrounding us. For us, these are simply tools that solve our trivial problems – to Robert, they are an art portal to a borderless realm of artistic possibilities. Furthermore, not only is Gober capable of transforming these objects into works of art, but he is able to turn them into catalysts for broader discussions about politics, sexuality or some other core topic of our existence[6]. When one looks at his practice from that perspective, it immediately becomes clear exactly why Gober is held in such a high regard within the circles of artistic communities.

Robert Gober lives and works in New York City, The United States.

References:

  1. Gober, R., Robert Gober, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, 1998
  2. Sussman, E., Gober, R., Vischer, T., Robert Gober: Sculptures and Installations, 1979-2007, Steidl/Schaulager, Basel; 1st edition, 2007
  3. Garrels, G., Temkin, A., Flood, R., Gober, R., Robert Gober: Sculpture And Drawing, Walker Art Center, 1999
  4. Als, H., Temkin, A., Gober, R., Pobocha, P., Carson, C., Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014
  5. Drutt, M., Helfenstein, J., Gober, R., Robert Gober: The Meat Wagon, The Menil Foundation, Inc.; First Edition, 1999
  6. Burton, J., Gober, R., Marta, K., Gioni, M., Robert Gober: 2000 Words, Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, 2016

Featured image: Robert Gober – Untitled, 1984 – Image via nyoobserver.com
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017Gosh! Is It Alive?Arken Museum of Modern Art, IshojGroup
201730th Anniversary Exhibition - Attics of My LifeJack Hanley Gallery - New York, New York City, NYGroup
2017Passages in Modern Art: 1946 – 1996Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TXGroup
2014Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a MetaphorMuseum of Modern Art, New York City, NYSolo
2013Robert Gober - Sculpture Drawings StudiesMatthew Marks Gallery - Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CASolo
2012Robert GoberMuseum für Gegenwartskunst - Emanuel Hoffmann-Stiftung, BaselSolo
2010Robert GoberMuseum of Contemporary Art Denver, Denver, COSolo
2009Listen Darling… The World is Yours, Ellipse Foundation, Alcoitão, PortugalGroup
2009Confronting History: Contemporary Artists Envision the Past, Middlebury College Museum of Art, Middlebury, USAGroup
2009Here Is Every: Four Decades of Contemporary Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USAGroup
2009Reality Check: Truth and Illusion in Contemporary Photography, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USAGroup
2008Robert Gober, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, USA Solo
2007Robert Gober, Schaulager, Münchenstein, Basel, Switzerland Solo
2007Robert Gober, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, USA (solo)Group
2005Robert Gober, RHA Gallagher Gallery, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, IrelandSolo
2005The Meat Wagon, The Menil Collection, Houston, USA Solo
2005Robert Gober, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, USASolo
2004Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated): Art from 1951 to the Present, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USAGroup
2004Mirrorical Returns: Marcel Duchamp and 20th Century Art, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, JapanGroup
2003Robert Gober: Displacements, Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Oslo, Norway (solo)Group
2001Untitled exhibition of eight drawings, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel, SwitzerlandSolo
2001US Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, ItalyGroup
2000Robert Gober: New Lithographs, Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl, New York, USA Solo
2000Robert Gober: Sculpture + Drawing, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA Solo
2000Robert Gober: Sculpture and Drawing, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.Solo
1999Robert Gober: Skulptur + Teckning, Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art, Malmö, SwedenSolo
1999Robert Gober: Sculpture + Drawing, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USASolo
1998UntitledAldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, USAGroup
1997Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, USA Solo
1997Robert Gober, The Geffen Contemporary at Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USA Solo
1996Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, GermanySolo
1995Galerija Dante Marino Cettina, Umag, CroatiaSolo
1995Robert Gober, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel, SwitzerlandSolo
1994Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, USA Solo
1994Robert Gober: Dessins, Galerie Samia Saouma, Paris, FranceSolo
1993Untitled Serpentine Gallery, London, England; travelled to Liverpool Tate Gallery Solo
1992Dia Center for the Arts, New York, USA Solo
1992Documenta 9, Kassel, GermanyGroup
1988US Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, ItalyGroup
1984UntitledPaula Cooper Gallery, New York, USASolo