Robert Gober

Untitled (Leg), 1989-90, beeswax, cotton, wood, leather and human hair, Museum of Modern Art, New York

MoMA’s “Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor” is the first American retrospective of the artist’s work to date, chronicling a 40-year career. Open through January 18, 2015, the exhibition features approximately 130 works encompassing trompe-l’oeil sculpture, immersive installations, drawings, paintings, and prints. The show is expansive, yet subdued and draws on Gober’s work as both artist and curator by restaging a number of earlier shows.

Primordial works date from Gober’s college days, which he felt was a crucial part of the survey. He wanted to illustrate his progression as an artist, even if these initial works were perhaps less successful than his more recent ones. (This didn’t prove to be a problem; the work in the show is incredibly consistent.) “I would go to these retrospectives as a young artist, and I always remember feeling disappointed that there wasn’t any early work. I wanted to see where these artists began,” said Gober. Indeed, his choice to provide a foundation for the viewer was a wise one, as many of the themes that emerge within the first few galleries reemerge throughout the show and culminate in a circular narrative. Hung in the first gallery, an oil painting of his parent’s house in Connecticut from 1975 is juxtaposed with a white playpen sculpture made this year, illustrating Gober’s origin, growth, and the tacitly personal aspect of much of the work that follows.

From there, we are introduced to a number of restaged shows. The first features his sink series. Gober thrives in trompe-l’oeil representation, for at first glance, these varied basins, with their pristine white gleam seem more like ready-mades than constructions. In fact, they are what the artist calls “portraits of sinks” that he has known or encountered. Some seem intimate, like Small Bathroom Sink, while others are large public vessels, such as Broom Sink. However, they all lack one crucial element: plumbing. Made during the AIDS crisis, their lack of utility is a sobering reminder of the inability to cleanse oneself of the disease. This concept culminates in the haunting tension between a trompe-l’oeil bed placed before a window looking out on two half-buried sinks. Like gravestones, the sinks imply the impending deaths of the many individuals tragically taken by intimacy.

Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor
Installation view of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, The Museum of Modern Art, October 4, 2014–January 18, 2015. © 2014 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar. All works by Robert Gober © 2014 Robert Gober

Questions surrounding sex, politics, and civil rights continue throughout the show. The next galleries feature restaged sculptural installations from a 1989 exhibition at Paula Cooper gallery. Wallpaper featuring a pattern of a lynching and a white man sleeping serenely illustrate the awful history of the United States in overwhelming repetition, while in the next room, walls covered with line-drawn genitalia demand questions about our discomfort with sex and gender. An empty wedding dress and a bag of donuts sit in the center of each respective gallery. This physical uneasiness continues with Gober’s dismembered leg sculptures, formed with wax and human hair, beneath fully constructed fabric clothes and leather shoes.

In later works, water makes an appearance. The sinks re-emerge, this time with plumbing pumping through them. The walls are covered in jungle-like wallpaper, and newspapers are strewn about the gallery floor. Another piece features a suitcase that also functions as a portal. Beneath a sewer grate, far below the gallery floor, is a tide pool with starfish, coral and human feet from a man and a baby. The use of water comes to a climax in a complex rumination on 9/11 in the form of a church with pews on either side of a center aisle that leads up to a crucifix with water streaming from Jesus’ nipples and into a pit in the gallery floor.


The themes here are rich and Gober seems to pose more questions than he answers. With adroit renderings and subversions of everyday objects and possessions, Gober illuminates issues as broad and troubling as sex, politics, and religion. The show is moving, and the sculptures are stunning in their simplicity and skill. Through the isolation and juxtaposition of our everyday objects, Gober implores us to consider the fraught history of American life, and as a result, asks us what it means to be an American today.


Marie Watt


Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Cousin Rose, Four Pelts, and Sky Woman, 2005
Each approximately 20″ x 20″ x 180″
Stacked and folded wool blankets, salvaged cedar.
Installation view, Hoffman Gallery, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon.

We are received in blankets, and we leave in blankets. The work in these rooms is inspired by the stories of those beginnings and endings, and the life in between. I am interested in human stories and rituals implicit in everyday objects. Currently I am exploring the history of wool blankets. I find myself attracted to the blanket’s two- and three-dimensional qualities: On a wall, a blanket functions as a tapestry, but on a body it functions as a robe and living art object. Blankets also serve a utilitarian function. As I fold and stack blankets, they begin to form columns that have references to linen closets, architectural braces, memorials (The Trajan Column), sculpture (Brancusi, for one), the great totem poles of the Northwest and the conifer trees around which I grew up. In Native American communities, blankets are given away to honor people for being witnesses to important life events – births and comings-of-age, graduations and marriages, namings and honorings. For this reason, it is considered as great a privilege to give a blanket away as it is to receive one.

Blankets hang around in our lives and families – they gain meaning through use. My work is about social and cultural histories imbedded in commonplace objects. I consciously draw from indigenous design principles, oral traditions, and personal experience to shape the inner logic of the work I make. These wool blankets come from family, friends, acquaintances and secondhand stores (I’ll buy anything under $5). As friends come over and witness my blanket project in progress, I am struck by how the blankets function as markers for their memories and stories.


Blanket Stories: Cousin Rose, Four Pelts, Sky Woman and Relations, 2004
Each approximately 20″ x 20″ x 212″
Stacked and folded wool blankets, salvaged cedar.
Installation view, National Museum of the American Indian, New York, New York.


Totem: Blue Four-point, Lavadour and First-born, 2004
27″ x 27″ x 94″
Bronze, wool blankets, salvaged red cedar.
Jeri L. Waxenberg Collection


Installation, Institute of American Indian Arts Museum, 2006
Various dimensions
Reclaimed wool, bronze, salvaged cedar, salvaged fir
Includes: Blanket Stories: Three Sisters, Cousin Rose, Four Pelts, Sky Woman and All My Relations, 2006; Almanac: Glacier Park, Granny Beebe and Satin Ledger, 2005; Canopy (Odd One), 2005; and Canopy (Omphalos), 2005.

Susy Oliveira


Susy Oliveira, a Toronto-based multimedia artist, has been making a lot of online buzz with her photo-based constructions. Made from c-prints and foamcore, her works blend photography and sculpture, resulting in something that is at once imposing in its three-dimensionality and strikingly two-dimensional and angular.

Her photographs are mounted on each face of a volume to restore the third dimension to the image that was lost through the photographic process. In this way, Oliveira repurposes the images, giving them a new form and life. The result is a pixelated effect similar to that of video game characters or computer graphics circa 1980. The shape of the subject is therefore both simplified and amplified, creating something that is neither reality nor fiction, but somewhere in between.

For Oliveira, her sculptures represent one aspect of our modern obsession with replacing nature with fabricated, manmade versions of things, and with mixing the virtual with the real. These sculptures create their own virtual world that, like other virtual environments, is identifiably different than (but uncomfortably close to) reality.




Nobuhiro Nakanishi

Nobuhiro Nakanishi- 4

Fukuoka, Japan-born artist Nobuhiro Nakanishi has created a mesmerizing series called Layered Drawings that we’d love to see in person. Nakanishi uses a laser print to mount his photos onto plexiglass acrylic. Though we could enjoy each slice on its own, taken together, they produce a magnificent effect. “The theme of my work is: the physical that permeates into the art piece,” he says. “In a foggy landscape, we no longer see what we are usually able to see – the distance to the traffic light, the silhouette of the trees, the slope of the ground. Silhouettes, distance and horizontal sense all become vague. When we perceive this vagueness, the water inside the retina and skin dissolve outwardly toward the infinite space of the body surface. The landscape continues to flow, withholding us from grasping anything solid. By capturing spatial change and the infinite flow of time, I strive to produce art that creates movement between the artwork itself and the viewer’s experience of the artwork.”

Nobuhiro Nakanishi- 1

Nobuhiro Nakanishi- 2-1

Nobuhiro Nakanishi- 3

Lenka Clayton

People in Order – Age
2006 / video 3 mins (series of four) / Collaboration with James Price
One person of every age from one to one hundred years old, in ascending order.

Lenka Clayton (b. 1977) is a British conceptual artist whose work considers, exaggerates and alters the accepted rules of everyday life, extending the familiar into the realms of the poetic and absurd.

In previous works she has hand-numbered 7,000 stones; searched for all 613 people mentioned in a single edition of a German newspaper; filmed one person of each age from 1 to 100, and reconstituted a lost museum from a sketch on the back of an envelope. She and writer Michael Crowe are currently in the middle of writing a unique, personal letter to every household in the world. In 2012 Lenka founded An Artist Residency in Motherhood — a structured, fully-funded artist residency that takes place inside her own home and life as a mother of two young children. She is currently serving as the first Artist-in-Residence-in-Motherhood.

Her work has been exhibited widely including the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, FRAC Le Plateau in Paris, Kunsthalle St. Gallen in Switzerland, Anthology Film Archives in New York City, a Danish mediaeval tower, Tehran International Documentary Festival in Iran and just after the evening news on Channel 4 TV in the U.K., as well as in publications including Frieze, Art & Agenda, and Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology.

Lenka Clayton holds an MA in Documentary Direction from the National Film & Television School, UK and a BA in Fine Art from Central St. Martins, London. She has taught at institutions in the U.K., US and Sweden including three years at University of the Arts, London and a stint as Theodore Randall International Chair at Alfred University in New York. She was recently awarded a Creative Development Grant from the Pittsburgh Foundation and a Sustainable Arts Foundation award. She currently lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she was named Emerging Artist of the Year 2013. In 2014 she was awarded a Carol R. Brown Award for Creative Achievement.


63 Objects Taken from my Son’s Mouth

2011 – 2012 / acorn, bolt, bubblegum, buttons, carbon paper, chalk, Christmas decoration, cigarette butt, coins (GBP, USD, EURO), cotton reel, holly leaf, little wooden man, sharp metal pieces, metro ticket, nuts, plastic “O”, polystyrene, rat poison (missing), seeds, slide, small rocks, specimen vial, sponge animal, sticks, teabag, wire caps, wooden block / size laid out as shown 40″ x 40″ x 1″

Sixty-three objects that I had to take out of son’s mouth on safety grounds, between the ages of 8 – 15 months. The collection indirectly documents those months of our lives in small objects. The collection includes currency from the US, England and France, cigarette butts and beer bottle lids, and odds and ends from underneath the working table where we made Mysterious Letters (Paris).

Made during An Artist Residency in Motherhood.

Exhibited at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, 2013. Currently on show at State of the Art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas.

Rachel Marks


Rachel Marks is a young artist living and working in Paris, France. She earned a BFA from Oklahoma State University where she participated in an artist residency in Siena (2009) and studied abroad at the University of Hertfordshire in London (2010). After a year in Prague (2011 – 2012) teaching art to children, she obtained a Master’s degree at the Higher School of Art and Design in Grenoble, France (2013). Rachel has exhibited her work internationally in the United States, Italy, England and France.

Where is the text in the piece French Identity from? How did the piece come about?
French Identity was spawned from my experience of learning French. Understanding very little of the language, I wrote down words that I heard in my daily life. At night I wrote these words over and over in order to practice and learn them. The new sounds around me, and how to implicate myself inside them, became an obsession. French Identity was a way of documenting my journey of taking on a new identity. The text is from the words I wrote down repetitively in order to integrate myself into the language. This series is a representation of my way of learning French and finding myself within a world of new sounds.