Robert Gober (1954-)
Wax, cloth, wood, leather and human hair
Overall: 12 5/16 × 10 1/4 × 37 1/2 in. (31.3 × 26 × 95.3 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from Robert W. Wilson
Rights and Reproductions Information
© 1991 Robert Gober
Robert Gober’s works often disrupt the normal relationship between our bodies and our everyday surroundings, unsettling us and evoking a sense of physical uncertainty. This untitled sculpture is meticulously crafted to be highly realistic, yet it is also disturbingly altered. The lifeless wax leg (modeled on Gober's own) that protrudes from the wall is fitted with hundreds of individual and actual hairs, lending it a profound sense of intimacy. The artist recalled its inspiration as a simple anecdote: "I was in this tiny little plane sitting next to this handsome businessman, and his trousers were pulled above his socks, and I was transfixed in this moment by his leg.” The effect of encountering an inexplicably truncated body part in a museum context is not only jarring; it is also melancholy and, for Gober, deeply rooted in questions of mortality, specifically the AIDS crisis. While the phallic associations of the protruding candle are undeniable, the work also suggests a vigil, a sense of time passing and running out, and of bodies melting away.