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PRINT May 2005

AMERICAN GOTHIC: ROBERT GOBER’S NEW WORK

ROBERT GOBER ONCE DESCRIBED his installations as “natural history dioramas about contemporary human beings,” and, like many dioramas, they mix the real with the illusionistic in ways that both fascinate and disorient us. With his recent project at Matthew Marks Gallery, his first New York show in more than a decade, it was the aftermath of 9/11 that we revisited as if in a waking dream. At stake was the question of how to work through this present-past (Gober began the project soon after the Al Qaeda attacks and completed it soon before the last presidential election)—how to be sensitive, at once, to its human tragedy, political exploitation, and cultural sentiment.

Entering the gallery, we saw a knotty plank of faux wood in unpainted plaster leaning against a wall, an item somewhere between refuse and relic. Then, in the exhibition space proper, were two stacked garbage cans (also in

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