Gober and Celmins, a Conversation


Robert Gober "Untitled" 1991. Wood, beeswax, leather, fabric, and human hair


In my Contemporary Art Forms class we are reading excerpts from a very fun tome of a book called, “pressPLAY Contemporary Artists in Conversation.”  (published by Phaidon:   http://www.phaidon.com/store/art/pressplay-9780714845333/ Some interviews in it are better than others; avoid Richard Deacon and Lorna Simpson).

A wonderful dialog was that of Robert Gober with Vija Celmins.  Here are some quotes that resonated with us:

“I get very frustrated when people ask me, ‘What does your sculpture mean?’ I respond by talking about what it’s made of and they get impatient, as though I’m avoiding the question.  But I feel that unless you know what it’s physically made of you can’t begin to understand it.  A lot of times the metaphors are imbedded right in the medium and the way that you work.” Robert Gober

“And I was thinking even if nobody gets it, I had a feeling that I could go and I could work.  I don’t know, it’s like building a self through the work.  And then the work sort of reflects some aspects of yourself.  And I don’t mean the brain. I mean like, some aspects of your body and your emotions – and your brain.” Vija Celmins commenting on making her artwork when she felt her art didn’t fit into the art market in California.


Untitled (Big Sea #1), Vija Celmins, Pencil, 1969— Courtesy McKee Gallery, N.Y.


I would go driving around in the New Mexico desert consoling myself by mindlessly picking up rocks and throwing them in my car.  Later, unloading them in my studio, I had this moment of inspiration.  They seemed so beautiful, I wanted to make them myself.  I wanted to see how close I could come; that’s how the piece started.  There was never any symbolism or any real idea.  I just went back to looking, which I guess is a theme that runs through my work.  Looking at stuff and sort of regenerating something in me that keeps wanting to live – something that sustains me that I’d forgotten about. Vija Celmins commenting on her piece “To Fix the Image in Memory”


Vija Celmins " To Fix the Image in Memory" (1977-82) Elleven small stones and their duplicates, made of painted cast bronze.


About abiggerworldyet

Visual Artist Brother Sojourner College Professor Christ follower
This entry was posted in Artists of Interest and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Gober and Celmins, a Conversation

  1. lomagirl says:

    I know this book- I don’t think I read all of it, but perhaps a prof recommended it or it was a text in a creative workshop a year or two ago. Great quotes.

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