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Artists Robert Gober
Robert Gober Photo

Robert Gober

American Sculptor and Conceptual Artist

Movements and Styles: Conceptual Art, Appropriation Art, Installation Art

Born: September 12, 1954 - Meriden, Connecticut

Robert Gober Timeline

Quotes

"The humor, to me, is very important. A lot of times in the studio, I push the pieces until they make me laugh. It's a way to let people enter into the piece, where you can give them more complicated and fraught material. It's a disarming device, but it's also a pleasure that comes with the piece."
Robert Gober
"Making sculptures has taken me places emotionally and intellectually I never would have gone."
Robert Gober
"I don't think art is inherently cynical. I think it's inherently hopeful."
Robert Gober
"Most of my sculptures have been memories remade, recombined, and filtered through my current experiences."
Robert Gober
"For the most part works of mine are untitled. There was a brief period where I had poetic titles for works and they're embarrassing now."
Robert Gober
"My problem painting from my life was I found that you can't paint dirt without romanticizing it."
Robert Gober
"I always try to get people to focus less, or at least not first, on finding 'meaning', or 'theme' in the work, but to focus on what it is exactly. What is it physically made of and how it is made. A lot of times metaphors are almost embedded in the medium."
Robert Gober
"The theme of Gober's work is men, their torments, desires, shames, and failures, as well as their occasional tattered triumphs, which are usually heralded by a maternal or celestial female image."
David Salle

"For the most part, the objects that I choose are almost all emblems of transition; they're objects that you complete with your body, and they're objects that, in one way or another, transform you."

Robert Gober Signature

Synopsis

Since the early 1980s, Robert Gober has produced paradoxical sculptures that seem to embody qualities of both hand-made and machine-made objects at the same time. His works are often replicas of items found in everyday life - bags of cat litter, cans of paint, kitchen sinks, urinals - but his deliberate fabrication techniques transform these mundane things into pieces of fine art. Gober both entices and deceives his viewers by giving the impression of familiarity while engaging with surprising complexities of modern-day sexual identity, religion, politics, and art history. His works confront the expectations of those inside and outside of the formal art world; he asserts a studied, subjective intimacy into his art while placing his ideas within the celebrated lineage of Modern art, being both intensely present and historical, and invoking personal and universal experiences, at the same time.

Key Ideas

Gober's sculptures seem like ordinary objects at first glance, but they reveal their artifice upon closer scrutiny. Rather than hiding their handmade quality, these objects highlight the materials involved in the construction process. For some works, Gober identifies them only by their materials, showcasing media like wood, plaster, wax, hair, wire, clay, paint, and more. Surprisingly, Gober exposes both the means and the making of the art work, giving the viewer access to the unseen history of the work and the inevitable presence of the artist behind it, affirming a more complex process existing underneath a finished exterior.
By choosing objects found in modern-day life as the subjects of his sculptures, Gober's works directly confront the influence of the "readymade" throughout recent art history. First made famous by Marcel Duchamp in the early-20th century, readymades extracted items from daily life and gave them new identities as art objects. This process made artists and viewers reconsider their own relationships with these items, as well as their understandings of what art was required to be. Gober's works, however, are not readymades in the truest sense, but recall the impact of the readymade on artistic freedom. Gober preserves a hand-crafted quality in his objects obscuring and negating their use as commodities while still maintaining their basic, original visual features. Gober's simultaneous recognition and rejection of the readymade's most prominent features pushed the limitations of Contemporary art, eliciting surprise and provocative thought.
The presence and the absence of the human body is constant in many of Gober's works. From dollhouses to kitchen sinks, his objects often imply use by humans, even when people are not visually present. Gober inserts the viewers into the spaces created, leaving them empty and waiting to be filled by a real or imagined human presence. This experience is comfortable and familiar, and yet, it is also disconcerting, especially when the sculptures and installations invoke privacy and intimacy associated with the human body. As viewers intrude on these intensely and physically close moments, they are aware of their own complicity. This tension between comfort and discomfort is one of Gober's hallmark traits, forcing viewers to experience sensations and ideas in an art environment that carry impact beyond the gallery walls.
Though Gober's sculptures present seemingly mundane and universally experienced objects, many of them hold personal, even autobiographical, meanings. Gober investigates such intimate topics as sexual identity, religion, and social taboos over many years and in many visual manners, finding surprising methods to include the individual in the final products.

Biography

Robert Gober Photo

Childhood

Robert Gober was born in Meriden, Connecticut, and grew up in the nearby town of Wallingford. His family included his mother, who worked as a nurse, his father, a draftsman, and his brother and sister. Both sets of his grandparents were immigrants to the US - his maternal grandparents from Italy and his paternal grandparents from Lithuania. Gober's family members were strict Catholics, and Gober served as an altar boy at a church as a child. His family's Catholicism and his experiences within the church were to shape his life and artwork. He has said, "I think the benefit of a Catholic childhood is your belief in visual symbols as transmitters of information and clues about life, whether it's the mystery of life or life in general."

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Robert Gober Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Robert Gober
Interactive chart with Robert Gober's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Ellsworth KellyEllsworth Kelly
Hans BellmerHans Bellmer
Salvador DalíSalvador Dalí
René MagritteRené Magritte

Personal Contacts

Elizabeth MurrayElizabeth Murray

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism
MinimalismMinimalism
Modern SculptureModern Sculpture

Influences on Artist
Robert Gober
Robert Gober
Years Worked: 1982 - 2010s
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Cindy ShermanCindy Sherman

Personal Contacts

Donald Moffett
David WojnarowiczDavid Wojnarowicz
Christopher WoolChristopher Wool
Keith HaringKeith Haring

Movements

Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
PostmodernismPostmodernism
Appropriation ArtAppropriation Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Anna Souter

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Meggie Morris

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Anna Souter
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Meggie Morris
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