Among other artists who emerged in the 1980s, Gober explores sexual and cultural identity. “Most of my sculptures,” he has said, “have been memories remade, recombined, and filtered through my current experiences.” As well as evoking difficult childhood memories, Gober’s slightly distorted objects—at once familiar and strange—seem to reflect unease with the domestic rituals and lingering puritanical attitudes of the suburban middle class. His surreal wax body parts, so extremely detailed that they include actual human body hair, prompt contradictory feelings of terror and fascination. This combination of sensations is a response to the paradoxical phenomenon that Sigmund Freud called “the uncanny”: Through a small change, something ordinary reveals a hidden strangeness, bringing out long-forgotten fears.
Gallery label from Here Is Every. Four Decades of Contemporary Art, September 10, 2008–March 23, 2009.