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Lot 31: ROBERT GOBER (b. 1954)

Contemporary Art Part One

by Sotheby's

May 15, 2001

New York, NY, USA

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Description: ROBERT GOBER (b. 1954)
X Crib
signed, titled and dated Summer 1987 on the underside
wood and enamel paint
44 by 50 1/2 by 33 1/4 in. 111.8 by 128.3 by 84.5cm.
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1987
Susanne Kotz,ed., Three Decades: The Oliver-Hoffmann Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1988, p. 64, fig. 3,
illustrated in color
Maureen P. Sherlock, "Arcadian Elegy: The Art of Robert Gober", Arts, September 1989, p. 45,
Robert Gober, Ulrich Loock and Karel Schampers, eds., Robert Gober, Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen and Kunsthalle Bern, 1990, p. 71, illustrated in color
The painstaking ambiguity of Gober's brilliant sculptural vision allows him to transform seemingly everyday objects into multi-layered memorials to our existence. The standardized nature of the mass-produced objects which influence and inform our lives are witness to specific intrusions in their newly handcrafted form as the artist re-constructs their history.
X Crib shows Gober delving into the myth of the 'happy home' of his own childhood experience to find a 'domestically nondescript motif' which constructs and evokes a particular era of formative experience.
Raised in a strict Roman Catholic household, Gober found many
traditional family values constrictive and incompatible with the modern experience of the world. The media-manipulated ideals of the blissful domestic haven enveloping the nuclear American family after the war disintegrated with the realization of what was required to sustain this vision of sameness. It is in and around this psychologically charged sense of idyllic domesticity that Gober positions his investigations into the nostalgia for lost objects and false ideals, the sublimation of desire and the clash between individual beliefs and societal norms. Taking such a mediated icon of his own 1950s youth, a typical article of childhood family sitcom bliss, Gober's subtle re-construction of the crib turns the universal distant memory of an object-related experience into the object itself.
The simplicity of form and smooth, glossy appearance of X Crib would appear, at first sight, to represent mechanical origins, as in a Duchampian appropriation of an existing commercial original as a work of art. However, closer inspection reveals differences within the object. Gober's subtle manipulation of the surface and massaging of the form creates a unique identity which
subjects the re-creation of this
emotionally overloaded object to a bold cooling process. Taking the warm safety and square encapsulation of the protection bars, Gober disables their functionality and instead turns them into the cold isolation of a kind of Minimalist prison. The brutal piercing of the space dissects it into two symmetrically confrontational, claustrophobically (tri)angular isolation cells. Bearing traces of its manual production, traces of physical contact and bathed in the "timeless"warm white patina that often accompanies objects of comfort, X Crib takes the Minimalist form and lends it an uncanny terror which silently
penetrates the viewer's subconscious. Playing with the received perception of the ideal crib as the harmonious bodily comfort zone and the secure locus of unity, Gober's twisted,
tortured childhood cage articulates a physical and emotional confinement which somehow hints at an innocence lost and lends a sculptural form to the world of lived experience. This mute object, this silent thing has suddenly become a replica of a
specific feeling, a testimony to a domestic tragedy.

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