Get ready for some polemics, and masterworks of fake legs of plumbing: A Robert Gober retrospective is coming to MoMA next year.
Gober’s reviews make him a culture-wars lightning rod, since he often treats taboos with bald ambiguity. “Hanging Man/Sleeping Man” (1989), for example, shows wallpaper of lynchings and a white man sleeping, which Gober has described as an image of guilt. In 1990, the piece offended the African-American security guards who were tasked to guard it at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum; or, as the Harvard Art Museums website puts it, the case was “an interesting study in representation and interpretation.” Uh huh.
But we are really looking forward to this show based on descriptions of his legendary untitled Virgin Mary installation—a six-foot-tall Virgin Mary, who’s been aborted with a culvert pipe—which has been praised as beautiful, violent, and complicated by critics Christopher Knight and Roberta Smith. Catholic pundits, of course, hate it. “It can also be said that Gober, who is an embittered gay ex-Catholic, is part exhibitionist, otherwise he would have no need to publicize his “intensely personal” work. We just wish he would do it behind closed doors and leave his creations there, preferably next to the garbage can,” wrote The Catholic League (blogger Bill Donahue) back in 1998. (He’ll be back.) In any case, Paddy Johnson has stated in an interview, and just now in the office, that this is the best contemporary artwork ever made; it’s Dave Hickey’s third favorite artwork since 1977; and Roberta Smith wrote that a 2007 retrospective at the Schaulager museum, containing this work, drew a “chorus of superlatives.” We’ve been dying to see it ever since.
“The Heart Is Not a Metaphor,”opens Oct. 11, 2015.