Gober is a contemporary heir of Surrealist artists such as René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, but his images, however bizarre, are quietly plainspoken. The individual components are ordinary, their combination is legible, and the details are precise. In this untitled work, the wax body, truncated at the waist, fits so flush against the wall that one imagines trunk, arms, and head on the other side. Gober has said that the group of body sculptures to which this belongs was inspired by animal dioramas in a natural-history museum—examples of figurative sculpture far removed from the Classical tradition. In them, reality (rather than the ideal) is the goal, as it is here—for example, in the hairs on the exposed skin and the well-worn soles of the figure’s shoes.
This sculpture was made for an installation at a museum in Paris, where it emerged from a wall papered with a forest scene. It was shown together with two similar sculptures, one with naked buttocks printed with a musical score and the other with clothed legs punctured by three drains—a trio of pleasure, disaster, and resuscitation, Gober has said. Removed from this theatrical setting, this sculpture is open to a wealth of diverse readings. Its realism is the departure point for broad avenues of symbolic and psychological meaning.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 95.