“The Heart is Not a Metaphor”, Robert Gober’s retrospective at MOMA ended on January 18th, which makes me happy I saw it but unhappy for those who missed it. Gober works in various mediums—installations being, of course, the most enveloping and most beautiful. Installations remind me of the other worlds that artists live in and bring to us right out of the box. The room of Gober’s that held the most meaning for me was the one in which his version of Christ’s cruci-fiction hung in kind of faded spotlight—and on each side of that were two doors that were slightly ajar where two curious lines of people formed anxious to see what was there beyond the yellow crack of light falling out of each. I didn’t have the patience to wait, but Andrew told me one door was about a man sitting in a bathtub with his knees pulled up to his chest. Gober has a thing about legs—men’s legs, in particular. For Mr. Gober is queer and came into fame around the beginning of AIDS—in New York, in the late 1980’s.
On the walls of the room in which I was most moved—the room of doors and cruci-fiction, were pages from the September 12, 2001 edition of the New York Times on which Gober had painted over every article of atrocity and attack and audacity, a couple in an embrace—each looking as if they had been drawn from another period—WPA? Simply painted. Gender, non-specific. Race, almost non-specific, but probably Caucasian. It was the story superimposed on the story. The story Gober was reading in his mind while all of New York and the rest of the reading world was reading the paper of record. And on the facing wall, there were hung, in the same order, mirror images of the same articles and the same couples. Seeing the reverse version was particularly remarkable because it meant that I had it all wrong at first and taking it whole as something hard to read gave the power of the embrace even more thrust and tenderness because its reality means that real news is what transcends the reporting of our own bodies through time.
by Michael Klein