Set your Instagram filter to "Surreal" and venture inside Matthew Marks Gallery’s Robert Gober: Sculpture Drawings Studies, on exhibit from January 19-April 6, 2013. This is the surrealist's first solo exhibition of new work in 4 years and marks Gober's long-awaited return to Los Angeles for a one-person show. The artist's sometimes polarizing work explores themes of religion, politics, power, and sexuality, and often represents objects from his childhood in distorted form. His current exhibition is less controversial in tone, but is still a thought-provoking experience.
The exterior of the gallery on Orange Grove Avenue is imposing and almost ominous, a monolith among its low-slung neighbors in an urban mecca. A black bar hovers at the top of the building's smooth white facade, interrupted only by the tiniest sliver of a doorway. Inside is a stark, modern double-volume vertical space with three rooms, six large skylights, and unfinished concrete floors. In the first room, near the entrance, is a 14 x 10 ¾ x 6-inch cast gypsum polymer sculpture of an ear and its surrounding tissue, rotated one hundred and eighty degrees. The piece is significant because it implies a contradiction between hearing vs. listening, the truth vs. propaganda, turning meaning upside-down and on its head.
In the next room, the exhibition houses three large untitled scupltures. Revisiting a structure prevalent in his earlier works, Gober's new set of "sinks" hints at something uniquely sinister and anthropomorphic. To the left and attached to the wall, is an upright sink (Untitled, 2012) measuring 44 ½ x 43 x 23 inches. Its basin extends outward in a right angle and into a sterile, institutional invitation. The seemingly commonplace structure's glossy enamel surface metamorphoses upward into four haunting striated appendanges. Woven through and between them are three beeswax limbs embellished with human hair. On the right wall is a permutation of Gober's first sink. This one is of similar size, but lacks the protuding angle of the first. Instead, it lies supine against the wall, allowing its mangled talons and ensnared limbs to reach downward, threatening to terrorize the ground below.
The pièce de résistance is mounted on the center wall at the rear of the gallery, and at 65 ½ x 85 ¾ x 25 inches, it is the largest and perhaps most provocative piece in the exhibition. Gober once again returns to the basin form with a sculpture of two mirror-image conjoined sinks. Whereas we get a sense of the grotesque "or-else" alternative to the mandate of sterile conformity in Gober's first two sinks, here we are introduced to the paralysis of non-choice. Both sinks, positioned left and right, are identical and echo back-and-forth in an infinite feedback loop of endless insanity, a brainwash.
Three other pieces are included in the Orange Grove Avenue location's Robert Gober exhibition: a 1972 Untitled graphite on paper nude drawing, a 2011 also untitled potato print of Oscar Hammerstein's lyrics to "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" from The Sound of Music, and a 2012 Untitled glazed porcelain pin with embedded pigments that reads "WE DON'T WANT ELEANOR EITHER." These pieces give further glimpses into the beautiful disaster that is the psyche of Gober.