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Lot 337: Robert Gober (b. 1954)

Post-War & Contemporary Afternoon Sale

by Christie's

November 13, 2008

New York, NY, USA

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Description: Robert Gober (b. 1954)
Untitled Candle
beeswax, string and human hair
8 x 4 7/8 x 6½ in. (20.3 x 12.3 x 16.5 cm.)
Executed in 1991. This work is number four from an edition of six plus two artist's proofs.

Notes: Throughout his oeuvre, Gober has investigated the psychological and symbolic power of the objects of our everyday lives. Depicting beds, sinks, drains and newspapers often in juxtaposition with disembodied legs and other body parts, the artist creates an uncanny resemblance of the mundane yet disturbingly altered world. Gober painstakingly constructs his universe from fragile and sensitive materials, imbuing the spaces occupied by his work with a deep sense of potential loss and longing. Within his singularly astute and perverse vision, Untitled Candle offers a unique hope of remembrance and renewal.

Whether illuminating the darkness of ignorance with truth or functioning as a votive, the candle as an object of ritual and religious symbolism has near universal relevance. Gober has consistently returned to nonfunctioning light sources as a motif having fabricated light bulbs from dried and cracked clay, beeswax and blown glass. In Gober's hands, deeply informed by his conflicted Catholic upbringing, the potential use of the candle (phallus) is suspended in perpetuity. It is precisely this extinguished potential that provides the illuminating power of Untitled Candle. Produced in 1990, at the height of the AIDS crisis in America, the sculpture is transformed into a material prayer for those lost to the pandemic. A vanitas symbol, yet one that will never be lit. This difference provides the sculpture with an enduring power to embody the brevity of life and forever to live as a domestic monument to those lost.

Provenance: Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Exhibited: Paris, Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume; Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Robert Gober, October 1991-March 1992.
New York, Paula Cooper Gallery, September-October 1991 p.42 (illustrated, another example exhibited).
Milwaukee Art Museum, Currents 20/Recent Narrative Sculpture, March-May 1992 (another example exhibited).
Hamburg, Kunstverein; Lucerne, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Gegendarstellung: Ethik und Ästhetik im Zeitalter von Aids, May-October 1992 s.p. (illustrated, another example exhibited).
Sheboygan, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Hair, December 1992-February 1993 p. 31 (illustrated, another example exhibited).
Cambridge, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Corporal Politics, December 1992-February 1993 p. 17 (illustrated, another example exhibited).
San Francisco, Haines Gallery, Body Parts, May-June 1993 (another example exhibited).
Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zimmer in denen die Zeit nicht zählt: Die Sammlung Udo und Anette Brandhorst, June-October 1994 (another example exhibited).
Helsinki, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Finnish National Gallery, Ars 95 Helsinki, February-May 1995 (another example exhibited).
New York, Sean Kelly Gallery, corpus virtu, September-October 1998 (another example exhibited).
New York, Bronwyn Keenan Gallery, Transfiguration, November-December 1998 (another example exhibited).
Munich, Staatsgalerie moderner Kunst im Haus der Kunst, Food For the Mind: Die Sammlung Udo und Anette Brandhorst, June-October 2000 p. 212 (illustrated, another example exhibited).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Malmö, Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art; Washington, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Robert Gober: Sculpture + Drawing, February 1999-September 2000 p. 133-134 (illustrated, another example exhibited).
Mount Kisco, The Foundation To-Life, Inc., Presence, 2003 (another example exhibited).
Santa Fe, SITE, Disparities and Deformations: Our Grotesque, July 2004-January 2005 p. 60 (illustrated, another example exhibited).
Mount Kisco, The Foundation To-Life, Inc., Eccentric Modern, March-August 2006 (another example exhibited).
New Canaan, Silvermine Guild Arts Center, WaxWorks, September-October 2006 (another example exhibited).
Purchase, Neuberger Museum of Art, Transitional Objects: Contemporary Still Life, September 2006-January 2007 (another example exhibited).
Southampton, Parrish Art Museum All the More Real, August-October 2007 (another example exhibited).
Los Angeles, Fowler Museum, Make Art/Stop AIDS, February-June 2008 (another example exhibited).

Literature: H. Posner, Separation Anxiety, Cambridge 1992 p. 26.
R. Flood, "Robert Gober. Interview with Richard Flood", Robert Gober, exh. cat. London 1993, p. 13.
H. Foster, "An Art of Missing Parts," October Spring 2000 p. 149-150 (illustrated).
M. Schneede, Mit Haut und Haaren. Der Körper in der zeitgenössischen Kunst Cologne 2002 p. 110-111 (illustrated).
H. Foster, Prosthetic Gods, Cambridge 2004 p. 330.
Robert Gober Sculptures and Installations 1979-2007, exh. cat, Basel p. 302-303 (illustrated).

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