Subodh Gupta draws heavily from the iconography of commonplace India to create his innovative sculptural works. Possessing an uncanny ability to identify objects and icons of Indian culture which innately demonstrate a tension between the traditional and modern, the artist uses clichées for example in this work, the cow-pat, or in others the stainless steel utensils of a typical kitchen, to comment on larger social ills such as: discrimination, caste politics, globalization, industrialization and religion. In this piece, the artist recasts cow-pats in gilt bronze placing them loosely in simple silver baskets on the floor of the gallery. These cow-pats, commonly referred to as gober, are constructed from fresh cow manure mixed with straw or grass and frequently used as a source of cooking fuel and construction material in rural India. These cow-pats are inevitably a by-product of one of India's most holy and revered animals. Admiration for these bovine creatures stems both from an association with the mother goddess Nandi and Krishna, as well as their sheer utility. Capable of accomplishing hard labor, providing nourishment through milk, and creating energy in the burning of their dung, these beasts of burden also have only a minimal affect on the environment and food production, since they consume only grasses which humans cannot. Nevertheless, gober has traditionally not been an object suitable for the realm of fine art. In gilding the cow-pat, Gupta both glorifies the banality and in effect vulgarity of gober in Indian culture, while cleverly celebrating its essential position in Indian culture. He uses gold and silver materials to showcase and elevate an object that is inherently quotidian and full of lower class rural connotations. The artist playfully manipulates our assumptions and the golden disks at first glance look more like glistening bits of exotic currency than glorified excrement.
The title of the work, Gober-Ganesha, is in fact a derogative term for someone who is lazy, stupid and incompetent, commonly used in the Hindi-speaking areas of Northern India. The terms derivation comes from its root, Ganesha, the elephant headed god of Hinduism, known for being obese and lazy.
A comparable version of the work from 2003 is entitled Everyday Less.
This work consists of a single basket with cow pies, exhibited as part of the artist's solo
exhibitions at Gallery Nature Morte, New Delhi (2003) and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (2005). Everyday Less is a unique work consisting of one
basket with cow pies. This work Gober-Ganesha is an identical cast of the
basket with cow pies, in this case two baskets combined together to
constitute one unique work.