Robert Gober: Artist Portrait

Robert Gober

Born 1954.
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Robert Gober Biography

Sculptor and installation artist Robert Gober was born in Wallingford, Connecticut, in 1954. Following his graduation from high school, as he was rejected from all the art schools for which he applied, he enrolled at Middlebury College in Vermont to study English. Nevertheless, he took several art courses in which he honed his artistic and technical skills. While at Middlebury, he was granted the opportunity to spend one semester in Rome, Italy, where he took the time to familiarize himself with Italian art—he took particular interest in Mannerist artists, such as Pontormo, liking their use of elongated and distorted figuration.

Gober graduated in 1976, and relocated to New York where he supported himself largely as a handyman and carpenter. Among his frequent jobs was making stretchers for painter’s canvases. About this time he began experimenting with painting, but, unhappy with the outcomes, he soon shifted his focus to sculpture. Following a job as a studio assistant with Painter Elizabeth Murray, Gober had his first solo exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery in 1984.

The AIDS crisis, beginning in the 1980s, had a profound artistic and personal impact on Gober, who later commented “I was a gay man living in the epicenter of 20th century America’s worst health epidemic.” Much of his work from this period reflected the devastation wrought by the pandemic, such as work that involved sinks—subliminally referencing the bathhouses that were common meeting spots for New York’s gay community. The human experience has continued to be a common theme in Gober’s oeuvre, utilizing household objects, built walls, and human forms in his work, tackling both private and shared experiences.

At the 2001 Venice Biennale, Gober created a site-specific installation piece for the United States Pavilion, which held content continuous of the plight of the gay community within the United States. Today, he continues to live and work in New York with his partner, artist Donald Moffett. He has had a number of major career retrospectives, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Oslo; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; among others.

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