Like Jonathan Safran Foer’s much-discussed new novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, the sculptor Robert Gober’s first New York gallery show in eleven years was born in the aftermath of 9/11—and like the book, it’s a heavily mannered, personal, and at times puzzling attempt to process a global event. Made between 2001 and 2004, this assortment of sculptures and wall pieces qualifies as an “installation” only in its symmetrical arrangement; each work has a mirror-image replica across the room. Lithographed copies of New York Times pages from September 12, 2001 (“A Nation Challenged”), are overlaid with drawings of embracing figures; slablike pedestals bear mysterious bowls of wax fruit and packages of diapers. In the corners, creepy hybrid-gender torsos sprout hairy legs. The centerpiece is a headless Christ fountain that spews water from its nipples into a hole in the concrete floor; it’s flanked by two doors that open just enough for the viewer to get a voyeuristic peek at wax bathers in two identical bathrooms littered with copies of the Starr Report. A new book, A Robert Gober Lexicon (Steidl MM; $40 for two volumes) goes some way toward demystifying this weird mix of Surrealist, political, and Catholic iconography, but otherwise, this is not a show for the uninitiated. Yet its hushed, ritualistic offerings, in contrast to the macabre pageantry of say, a Damien Hirst, should inspire a few conversions.
at Matthew Marks Gallery through April 23