Robert Gober (born September 12, 1954) is an American sculptor. His work is often related to domestic and familiar objects such as sinks, doors, and legs.
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.
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, and 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, complete not only with shoes and trouser legs but also human hair inserted into the beeswax.
In the Whitney Biennial 2012, he 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).
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. His work has also been included in five Whitney Biennials, including the 2000 Whitney Biennial with Sarah Sze, Doug Aitken, Cai Guo-Qiang, Louise Lawler and Richard Tuttle. 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. (ISBN 3865214738) Gober participated in the group show Lifelike that originated at the Walker Art Center in 2012. 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 Robert Gober’s work including approximately 130 sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints and photographs. This exhibition was 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 the Reading Prison in England.
Gober is represented by the Matthew Marks Gallery.
Gober's work is in many museum collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Menil Collection, the Tate Modern, the Centro Cultural de Belém, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Fondazione Prada in Milan, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 2013, the Hammer Museum honored Gober along with playwright Tony Kushner at its 11th Annual Gala in the Garden, with Gober being introduced by fellow artist Charles Ray.
Gober lives with his partner Donald Moffett. They reside in New York City and North Fork, New York, where Gober also maintains a studio.