Inverted Sink is an important work from a series of signature sculptures that Robert Gober began in the early 1980s. Scores of preparatory drawings preceded the production of this work, perhaps one of the best known in his oeuvre. While Gober has produced almost forty variations of the sink - each one is unique and idiosyncratic. The focus of the artist's investigation is based on a simple, old-fashioned domestic sink, whose numerous permutations he has continued to explore up until the 1990s. It differs from his earlier, more conventional sinks however, because it has been distorted beyond recognition. While Inverted Sink makes reference to the real object, Gober has created the sculpture in a much more abstract vein and thus, the work takes on completely different connotations.
Within this body of work Gober addresses various dualities: functionality and dysfunction, the familiar and the bizarre, the ordinary and the unique. The sink, a domestically non-descript motif, carries with it a psychological charge that is at once peculiar and common, mysterious and humorous. Furthermore, the highly distorted and almost surreal nature of Inverted Sink is not only ambiguous but nonsensical as it tilts downward on both sides at forty-five degree angles, making it completely useless. Through minor physical changes Gober has significantly altered the sink psychologically and has created a feeling of unease and precariousness in what otherwise appears to be a banal, domestic object.
These sculptures suggest the ritual of cleansing while their lack of plumbing frustrates this possibility. The white surface, reductive purity, and refinement of form represent a fetishized concern with cleanliness, which in turn can be seen as a signifier of morality.
While the artist's transformation of common household objects into subversive forms recall Duchamp's recontextualizing practice, his simple, reductive and repetitive forms also evoke Minimalist tendencies. Gober's Inverted Sink however, like all of his complex works, is imbued with an emotional and biographical quality and is invested with personal and symbolic meaning.