los-angeles

Robert Gober

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA)

Robert Gober took four years to make his new untitled installation at the Geffen Contemporary, two to think it, two to craft it. The result doesn’t so much exceed expectations as it utterly defeats them. Nothing here is quite what you would expect—of Robert Gober, or of contemporary art.

Just to begin, Gober’s piece reinstitutes the tradition of the grand narrative summation. Such summations rarely constitute an artist’s best work, strained, as they often are, under the weight of definitive answers, defensive posturing, or high purpose: Gustave Courbet’s The Artist’s Studio, Paul Gauguin’s Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, and Marcel Duchamp’s The Large Glass, and its later three-dimensional version, Étant donnés, I think, make this point. Gober’s version combines aspects of all these works—along with bits and pieces of myriad others. But if his theatrical tableau

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