Robert Gober’s art is one that plays with the variety of meanings associated with a discourse concerned with boundaries. These limits are confronted and manipulated by the artist in a number of intriguing and intelligent ways. He tackles the limitations of the object itself, by extension illuminating and reviewing his own praxis. He takes issue with the easy demarcation between figuration and abstraction and, of course, embraces the human body not as a homogenous entity, but rather as a series of fragments, both present and absent, that glorifies an open-ended concept of the body and of being.
Gober began making sculptures of body parts in 1989, and this is a particularly resonant year for the artist. These sculptural body parts, such as the present work, continue the simultaneity of presence and absence. By displaying two disconnected breasts, away from the body, isolated on the wall, Gober, again, points to the absence of the whole body. This physical disconnect lends the work an ambivalence that is eerie at the very least: one finds it difficult to approach them intellectually as objects given the sets of associations and understanding one brings to the breasts. Even though the image is highly charged, they remain almost undefined. They are what Theodora Vischer calls “… sites that express both loss but also renewal, as a starting point for a gaze that transforms our images of bodies and human beings … In shifting the representation of objects as simulacra of the body towards the representation of the body itself, the conflict between presence and absence is dramatically intensified.” (Theodora Vischer, “Emblems of Transition” in Exh. Cat., Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Robert Gober, October 1995–April 1996, p. 50)
Two Breasts is thus a powerful work that continues Gober’s investigation into the codes of existence through the presence and absence of the human being. Additionally, this dynamic is coupled with the politics of sexuality – an issue that continues to fascinate the artist. The present work can thus be connected to his later, celebrated series of wax “butts” and “legs," a curious and challenging enterprise which manifests itself in a number of objects that essentially display the absence of presence.
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