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Robert Gober (b. 1954)
Prison Window
box construction--plywood, forged iron, plaster, latex paint, incandescent and fluorescent lights and electrical hardware
window: 23¾ x 23¾ in. (60.3 x 60.3 cm.)
overall: 48 x 53 x 36 in. (121.9 x 134.6 x 91.4 cm.)
Executed in 1992. This work is number five from an edition of five plus one artist's proof.

Other examples from this edition are in the permanent Collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. (2)
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1993
Robert Gober, exh. cat., London/Liverpool, 1993, pp. 17, 38-39 and 46.
Robert Gober, exh. cat., Umag, 1995, pp. 18-19, 22-23 and 24-25 (another example illustrated and on the back cover).
Rites of Passage: Art for the End of the Century, exh. cat., London, 1995, p. 99 (another example illustrated).
Robert Gober, exh. cat., Basel, 1995, p. 20, fig. 7 (another example illustrated).
T. Westreich, ed., This is About Who We Are: The Collected Writings of John Caldwell, San Francisco, 1996, p. 202 (another example illustrated).
L. Cooke and K. Kelly, Robert Lehman Lectures on Contemporary Art: No. 1, New York, 1996, p. 110 (another example illustrated).
Apocalyptic Wallpaper, Columbus, 1997, p. 17 (another example illustrated in color).
Robert Gober, exh. cat., Los Angeles, 1997, p. 46 (another example illustrated in color).
Identity Crisis: Self-Portraiture at the End of the Century, exh. cat., Milwaukee, 1997, pp. 36-37.
M. Archer, Art Since 1960, London, 1997 (another example illustrated in color, cover).
Wounds: Between Democracy and Redemption in Contemporary Art, exh. cat., Stockholm, 1998, p. 128.
B. Reimschneider and U. Grosenick, eds., Art at the Turn of the Millenium, Cologne, 1999, p. 180 (another example illustrated in color).
M. Getlein, Gilbert's Living with Art: Sixth Edition, New York, 2002, pp. 546-574 (another example illustrated in color).
M. Piranio, ed., SFMOMA Painting and Sculpture Highlights, San Francisco, 2002 (another example illustrated in color).
P. Osborne, Conceptual Art, New York, 2002, p. 181 (another example illustrated in color).
Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images, exh. cat., Los Angeles, 2006, pp. 163 and 165-167 (another example illustrated in color).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 75 Years of Looking Forward, exh. cat., San Francisco, 2009, pl. 260 (another example illustrated in color).
New York, Dia Center for the Arts, Robert Gober, September 1992- June 1993, pp. 18, 20-21, 23 and 30-31(illustrated in color, cover).
New York, Paula Cooper Gallery, Robert Gober, Donald Judd, Cady Noland, Rudolf Stingel, December 1992-January 1993 (another example exhibited).
Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art Recent Acquisitions in the Permanent Collection, October 1993-January 1994 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Into a New Museum: Recent Gifts and Other Acquisitions of Contemporary Art, Part II, May-October 1995 (another example exhibited).
Santa Monica Museum of Art and SITE Santa Fe, A Glimpse of the Norton Collection as Revealed by Kim Dingle, December 1995-November 1996, n.p.
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Distemper: Dissonant Themes in the Art of the 1990s, June-September 1996, pp. 45-46, 127 and 131, no. 8, fig. 18 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Seattle, University of Washington, Henry Art Gallery, Inside: Louise Bourgeois, Robert Gober, Mona Hatoum, Gary Hill, Ilya Kabakov, Annette Messager, Lucas Samaras, April-June 1997 (illustrated).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, On the Edge: Contemporary Art from the Werner and Elaine Dannheisser Collection, September 1997-January 1998, pp. 49 and 52 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
The Chicago Curatorial Center, Reality Bites: Approaches to Representation in American Sculpture, April-June 1998.
Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Institute of Contemporary Art, Three Stanzas: Miroslaw Balka, Robert Gober and Seamus Heaney, January-March 1999, pp. 18-19 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Malmö, Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art; Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Robert Gober: Sculpture + Drawing, February 1999-September 2000, pp. 23 and 103 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Museo de Arte Contempoáneo de Monterrey, House of Sculpture/Casa de la Escultura, May 1999-February 2000, pp. 2, 8 and 12 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum, The Inward Eye: Transcendence in Contemporary Art, December 2001-February 2002, pp. 19, 27, 40-41 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
New York, James Cohan Gallery, Air, January-February 2003 (another example exhibited).
Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Robert Gober-Forskyvninger/Displacements, February-April 2003, pp. 52 and 99 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Queens, Museum of Modern Art, Artist's Choice: Mona Hatoum, Here is Elsewhere, November 2003-February 2004 (another example exhibited).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Between Art and Life: The Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Collection, July 2004-February 2005 (another example exhibited).
Houston, The Menil Collection, Robert Gober: The Meat Wagon, October 2005-January 2006, pp. 73 and 99 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Dublin, Royal Hibernian Academy, Gallagher Gallery, Robert Gober: Drawings and Sculpture, November 2005-January 2006 (another example exhibited).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Out of Time: A Contemporary View, August 2006-April 2007 (another example exhibited).
Schaulager/Basel, Robert Gober. Work 1976-2007, May-October 2007, pp. 30, 308-311, 320-321 and 518, no. S 1992.06 (other examples exhibited and illustrated in color).
New York, Andrea Rosen Gallery, Robert Gober and Felix Gonzalez-Torres; A Shadow Leaving an Object, December 2008-January 2009.
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Artist's Choice + Vik Muniz = Rebus, December 2008-February 2009 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Focus on Artists: Selections from the Collection, October 2009-May 2010 (another example exhibited).
Annandale-on-Hudson, Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies, On permanent exhibition, June 2010-present (another example exhibited).

Lot Essay

Through his depiction of seemingly mundane objects such as a sink, crib, chair, along with isolated body parts, American artist Robert Gober explores themes of family, religion, sexuality, alienation and memory, both collective and private. With painstaking and meticulous detail he renders these thought-provoking sculptures by hand to build a universe that investigates the psychological and symbolic power of the objects in our everyday lives. In Gober's 1992 work, Prison Window, the artist creates a space imbued with a deep sense of longing and frustration in order to elicit a strong emotional response from the viewer. One of the most engaging and thought-provoking works of Gober's oeuvre, the artist uses a deceptively spare two-foot square section of a wall to create an emotional and psychological experience.

A lasting theme in Gober's work is the appropriation and reconfiguring of simple everyday objects in a way that highlights their hidden symbolism. One such depiction is Gober's, Untitled, 1993 which depicts a chrome-plated bronze drain. The work appears initially to be a ready-made, but it is in fact painstakingly forged to resemble Gober's idealized vision of a drain, one that he felt carried a peculiar psychological and emotional charge. The symbolic power of the drain is invested with a complex array of ideas relating to the human body and its erotic pleasures, which attenuates its domestic role as a filter or portal. Similarly to the drain, Gober uses the imagery of a window in Prison Window, which presents a passage or portal. A gateway from inside to out, from containment to freedom, windows typically serve as a representation of movement. In Gober's typical fashion, he takes this imagery associated with a window and transmutes it to an experience in which the viewer questions his or her own association and relationship to the object. The viewer is struck with a sense of longing that one often associates with feelings of containment, which are underscored by the use of iron bars to block the accessibility of the window.

A square 24-inch relief cut into a white wall, backlit by fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs, presents the realistic image of a sunlit window. But instead of depicting this window as an opening, Gober places three black forged-iron bars across the relief, translating it into an inaccessible space. Although windows are often viewed as a threshold to the outside world or as a means of escape, Gober renders this work frustratingly and disappointingly impenetrable. By placing the window above the viewer's reach and encasing it with bars, the usually inviting representation of a window is replaced by a sealed passageway. This obscured window represents Gober's fascination with creating spaces and art works that serve as an odd simulacrum of their real life counterpart. While realistic, these works are slightly eerie and peculiar. Through such familiar and apparently innocuous objects, Gober creates a physical parallel world that exists alongside the real one, whereby he is able to expose the uncanny in the everyday.

There is a long tradition in the history of art of appropriating the imagery of a window to depict longing and also containment. Henri Matisse's La fenêtre (fenêtre ouvert à collioure), 1905, a polychromed depiction of an open window overlooking a harbor scene, conveys a similar sense of longing. While Gober's depiction of a window is more somber and subdued than Matisse's spirited palette, the central theme of the two works remains. In Matisse's work the viewer is placed on the inside of a building looking out toward a beautiful seascape. While the bright colors lend an upbeat feel to the overall tone of the work, the viewer is still sights the harbor from a confined room and is set apart from the scene. This same sense of separation is conveyed in Gober's work in which the entire space the viewer occupies is transformed into a prison cell and is separated from the outside world and the sunlit blue sky that is depicted through the window. While Gober does not construct a completed installation with a prison cot and a barred door, he implies this scenario and atmosphere through the emotional and psychological experience elicited when the viewer interacts with Prison Window. This creation of a space that is charged with tension is indicative of Gober's goal of finding a balance between the representation of an everyday object and the creation of a world that is filled with strangeness and distortion.

If looked at ontologically, Gober's work can be said to have a goal of identifying the line between comfort and uncertainty in the ordinary things that are our anchors. In addition, the artist succeeds in creating a physical, parallel world that exists alongside the real one: "On first encounter, the perceived situation of Gober's work is always ablaze with the signifiers of high Modernism: the pristine rooms, the privative objects, the exquisite craft and refined sense of placement, the subtle evocations of Duchamp and Magritte, Artschwager and Judd. Ultimately, however, all of this nuance and evocation takes on the coppery taste of bitter irony, as Gober (after generations of artists exploring the stuff of their lives in service of this tradition) exploits the stuff of this tradition in the service of his life; further, I think, we might consider Gober's project as evocative of his own generation, exploiting in a radical way the apparently reduced options left open to it" (D. Hickey, as quoted in Robert Gober, Dia Center for the Arts, 1993, pp. 54-55).

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