Untitled, 1992, mixed media, Collection of the Artist
September 12, 1954|
|Education||Middlebury College, Vermont, Tyler School of Art in Rome|
Early life and education
Gober was born in Wallingford, Connecticut and studied literature and then fine art at Middlebury College, Vermont and the Tyler School of Art in Rome. Gober settled in New York in 1976 and initially earned his living as a carpenter, crafting stretchers for artists and renovating lofts. He also worked as an assistant to the painter Elizabeth Murray for five years.
During Gober's initial years in the art world he first focused on painting. He then decided to do sculptures and to broaden his scope of art in the 1980s. Gober's work is often related to domestic and familiar objects such as sinks, doors, and legs, and has themes of nature, sexuality, religion, and politics. The sculptures are meticulously handcrafted, even when they appear to just be a re-creation of a common sink. While he is best known for his sculptures, he has also made photographs, prints, drawings and has curated exhibitions.
In 1982-83, Gober created Slides of a Changing Painting, consisting of 89 images of paintings made on a small piece of plywood in his storefront studio in the East Village; he made a slide of each motif, then scraped off the paint and began again. One of his most well known series of more than 50 increasingly eccentric sinks – made of plaster, wood, wire lath, and coated in layers of semi-gloss enamel – which he produced in the mid-1980s.
By 1989, Gober was casting beeswax into sculptures of men's legs, completed not only with shoes and trouser legs but also human hair that was inserted into the beeswax.
In the Whitney Biennial 2012, Gober curated a room of Forrest Bess's paintings and archival materials dealing with the artist's exploration into hermaphrodism. He also curated "Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield" at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in 2009 (which traveled to the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2010).
Art plays a role during the AIDS epidemic
During the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Robert Gober, along with other artists, used art to support the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). ACT UP was a large group of people that were infuriated by the lack of action from the government and scientists to stop the spread of AIDS and find a cure. A few artists, including Gober, organized an art auction to help raise funds to donate to ACT UP. Gober's Untitled (Leg),1989-90, alone was sold at a very high price, which helped prove to the public that art can be used to make the voices of the people be heard, to fight for a cause that is important to the communities, and that art is not just a commodity,nor is art just for pleasure. Robert Gober's sculptures portrayed a different aspect to the way art had been seen, he used his sculptures to send a strong message to the viewers.
In 1984, the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York hosted Gober's first solo exhibition. The Art Institute of Chicago presented the artist's first museum exhibition in 1988. Gober has since had exhibitions of his work in Europe, North America and Japan. He represented the United States at the 2001 Venice Biennale and has had several one-person museum exhibitions including at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Jeu de Paume, Paris, and Dia Art Foundation, New York.
In 2007 there was a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Schaulager in Basel. The exhibition was accompanied by a comprehensive book of his sculptures entitled Robert Gober. Sculptures and Installations 1979-2007.
From October 2014 to January 2015, The Museum of Modern Art, New York presented "Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor", a 40-year retrospective of his work including approximately 130 sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints and photographs. This exhibition was the first large-scale display in the United States. It was also accompanied by a catalogue of the same name including essays by Hilton Als, Ann Temkin and Christian Scheidemann, plus a chronology by Claudia Carson and Paulina Pobocha with Robert Gober.
Gober created a three-story permanent installation in the Haunted House at the Fondazione Prada, Milan which opened in May 2015. In autumn 2016, two new sculptures by Gober were included in the Artangel exhibition at Reading Prison in England.
Gober's work is in the following public collection:
Traditionally the poetics associated with Rober Gober’s artworks are focused on two fields: The surreal and the spiritual: "The almost devotional artisanship imbues common objects with an uncommon gravity, along with the sense of energy, growth and vulnerability that defines real bodies." Roberta Smith.. “He plays with the tension between the neutered forms and the strong emotional and physical connotations we attach to them.” Craig Gholson.. His artworks represent "The daily human war on dirt " Peter Schjeldahl., it works both literally and symbolically. "To be cleansed is to become pure, physically and also spiritually." David Carrier.. “A good way to make lighter the weight of our thoughts is to sink them in water; it works for certain cases of schizophrenia -like that of our society-.” Luis Alberto Mejia Clavijo.. In some cases the lavatories represent both the cyclical approach to be cleaner but the impossibility to be fully pure: "The sink still has no water, and the past will never wash off." Jason Farago..
- Robert Gober Museum of Modern Art, New York.
- "San Francisco Museum of Modern Art : Robert Gober: Sculptures and Drawings". Traditional Fine Arts Organization. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- Robert Gober Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
- Robert Gober National Gallery of Art, Washington.
- "Robert Gober | American artist". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
- Roberta Smith (October 2, 2014), Reality Skewed and Skewered (Gushing, Too) – ‘Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor,’ at MoMA New York Times.
- Jerry Saltz (October 1, 2014), Art Review: The Great, Inscrutable Robert Gober New York Magazine.
- Jason Farago (October 3, 2014), Robert Gober opens at MoMA: sober, haunting and genuinely affecting The Guardian.
- David Colman (March 16, 2012), Art Between the Cracks New York Times.
- 1958-, Katz, Jonathan D.,. Art AIDS America. Hushka, Rock, 1966-, Arning, Bill,, Castiglia, Christopher,, Reed, Christopher, 1961-, Helfand, Glen,, Hernandez, Robb,. Seattle. pp. 46–53. ISBN 9780295994949. OCLC 917362964.
- Crimp, Douglas (1987). "[Introduction]". October. 43: 3–16. doi:10.2307/3397562. JSTOR 3397562.
- Phyllis Braff (October 7, 2001), A North Fork Artist at the Venice Biennale New York Times.
- "La Biennale di Venezia - National Pavilion of USA". OneArtWorld. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- Sheets, Hilarie M. (April 19, 2012). "Use Your Illusion". ARTnews. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
- "Robert Gober". Whitney Museum of American Art. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- David Ng (July 11, 2013), Hammer Museum to fete Robert Gober, Tony Kushner at gala Los Angeles Times.
- Roberta Smith (AUG. 23, 2007), Against Delusion: Robert Gober’s Nuts-and-Bolts Americana The New York Times.
- Craig Gholson (Oct 1, 1989), Robert Gober by Craig Gholson Bomb Magazine.
- Peter Schjeldahl (Oct 13, 2014), Found Meanings. A Robert Gober retrospective The New Yorker.
- David Carrier (Nov 5, 2014), [https://brooklynrail.org/2014/11/artseen/robert-gober-the-heart-is-not-a-metaphor Robert Gober The Heart is Not a Metaphor] The Brooklyn Rail.
- Luis Alberto Mejia Clavijo (Jan 10, 2015), The body the flux and the thresholds: Robert Gober Contemporary Art Theory.
- Jason Farago (Oct 3, 2014), Robert Gober opens at MoMA: sober, haunting and genuinely affecting The Guardian.
- Jori Finkel (October 7, 2009), Opposites Attract, and an Exhibition Opens New York Times.
- Foundation for Contemporary Arts Announces 2013 Grants to Artists Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), press release of January 15, 2012.