PRINT Summer 2004

Robert Gober

IN MY LAST YEAR IN COLLEGE I STARTED PAINTING REALISTICALLY, partly, I think, because Minimal art was being well-meaningly shoved down my throat. Yet when I graduated and moved to New York in 1976 and saw these works in person, and in the time that they were being made as opposed to in reproduction or theory, I was pretty impressed. Minimalism might be more associated with the ’60s, but the presence and integrity of the work was little changed, and most of the artists were still working beautifully. I loved the drama of their sculptures. The way, in the cases of Andre and Judd, they charged the air around them. I was also very interested, and ultimately quite invested, in the differences between their approaches. Although appearing similar, to me they represent two very different histories and ways of making sculpture, which is always, I believe, a way of expressing impressions about your life on earth.

Andre’s work is what it is. If you pick up a metal plate or a timber and turn it over and look underneath, its essence always remains the same. But with Judd, at least in the case of the wall-mounted works, it’s a very different story, a very different sculptural tradition. They appear to be what they are, but actually there is always a bit of old-fashioned stagecraft involved. While these sculptures appear to be completely forthright and just the form that you see, there is actually a tiny concealed space built into the sculpture, adjacent to the wall, where a hanging bar resides. Although Judd hides it from view, because, I guess, he doesn’t want you to think about it, there is always this dark, weirdly undiscussed backstage space. Judd’s sculptures announce themselves as paradigms of clarity and forthrightness, yet achieve this goal through formal deception. There is a masculine bluff about these works that I find endearing, emotionally complex, and perhaps in their duplicity quintessentially American.

Robert Gober is a New York–based artist.