Robert Gober has always made reference to the personal legacy of his now distant childhood. He was raised as a Catholic and even served as an altar boy for some time. He went on to study fine art at Middlebury College in Vermont and spent a year at the Tyler School of Art in Rome. The year 1984 marked a turning point in his career. Gober created a series of slides, like a palimpsest, in which some of his most persistent visual motifs first appeared (drains, trees, orifices, etc). The series, ‘Slides of a Changing Painting’, was exhibited at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York. Some of his sculptures focus on spaces related to hygiene and cleanliness (sinks, urinals, etc). In the case of Untitled (1985) he creates an impossible structure devoid of any function. The work is composed of two parts mounted at different heights. They appear to be sinks but have no taps and look badly positioned. AIDS had a significant impact on Gober’s artistic output in the late 1980s and early 1990s (he also took part in actions organised by activists). His representation of wounded and mutilated bodies and disarticulated subjects—unparalleled in its intensity—can be largely attributed to a profound reflection on the pandemic and the social exclusion it has engendered. The beautiful and acutely painful exhibition of his work held at New York’s DiaCenter for the Arts in 1992–1993 makes this abundantly clear. Since then he has continued to explore issues related to the toxic influence of religion and violence in American society.
Juan Vicente Aliaga