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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Currently Hanging: Rare Appearances by Martin Puryear and Robert Gober

Posted by on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 at 12:01 PM

SHOULDERS The impossibly beautiful Martin Puryear print, which measures 35 by 28 inches.
  • Courtesy of the artist and Greg Kucera Gallery
  • SHOULDERS The impossibly beautiful Martin Puryear print, which measures 35 by 28 inches.

There are two solo exhibitions at Greg Kucera Gallery this month, one by Marie Watt and the other by Margie Livingston—of which more soon. What I want to tell you about is that the back room of the gallery has been papered with prints, a few of them extraordinary. Here are the two greatest examples.

Shoulders is by the artist who created this American classic. Martin Puryear's portrait of a glimpse at an old-fashioned bed frame works almost like a photograph, like he saw it one day out of the corner of his eye while making his own actual bed and couldn't help but notice and redraw the comparison to the human body. If I could have a single thing from Kucera's entire annual print sale, it would be this. From it I can picture the entire room where the bed sits, spare, full of light, a quiet place waiting for working people to come home so that the strong shoulders of the bed can carry the tired shoulders of the people to another day no matter what happens out there.

Then there's Robert Gober's eerie, disoriented, titleless lithograph from 2002, which happens to also be in the collection at MoMA. In case you can't quite make it out, a man's feet poke into the frame at the top, as if we were looking down from above him and the surface of the print were the ground. At his feet among the leaves is a Kraft mayonnaise label facing up at him. Maybe he's stopped to read it in the middle of a walk. You might just be able to make out the upside-down stylized "MAYO." Branches extend across the frame all the way down it, continuing the illusion.

ROBERT GOBER Untitled, 2002, 51 by 36 inches.
  • Courtesy of the artist and Greg Kucera Gallery
  • ROBERT GOBER Untitled, 2002, 51 by 36 inches.

But that illusion gives way to a second, or maybe even more than that. The man's ground becomes the back wall of a room with a prison window high in it. The shape of the prison window echoes the prison window, which echoes again in a basement door flung open below them, forming a straight line of three rectangles down the center of the picture, and also, with the shoes, a face.

There are more sudden perspective shifts, suggesting this is an imagined place, maybe a place that exists only in the mind or memories of the man, maybe aroused by the madeleine of the mayo label. Flung open, the basement doors reveal a tilted-up view of the basement in miniature. Seen this way, with the back wall of the basement pushed right up against the door, the room is severely constricted. The doors open on an underground closet. Are we indoors or outdoors? A forest, rather than a house, recedes into the background behind the basement doors. I feel a chill in the air and a whole series of trap doors, dead ends, promises of escape. Gober's work is all about the psychology of American domestic settings, their illusions and shared dreams and hypocrisies and exclusions for gay men like 59-year-old Gober. (The feet even assume a Larry Craig wide stance.) He's a tremendous artist, and we almost never see any of his work in Seattle. I wish that were different.


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Post_Mortem 1
I get most of what you're saying about Grober's piece, although I don't think the prison window echoes itself. Maybe you meant the mayo wrapper is echoed in the lower rectangles?

Also find your 'wide stance' assertion a weird reach. As a man, if I do not force my feet together to stand at attention, but naturally place them roughly underneath my shoulders while standing, that is about the proportional space you would find between my feet. It is nowhere near being so wide as to creep into the next stall while sitting down in an airport bathroom.

As someone who does draw sometimes, it is about where I would draw my feet, looking down. Doing so would not be an oblique reference.

The shadow seems to support my belief that this is just a regular man's foot position, when standing. Notice that you can see his right hand's shadow extend a bit past that of his right foot. Notice also that you can see his head's shadow in a way that doesn't really seem to match the idea of sitting on a toilet, especially because the light source is behind and above him, which makes no sense for a toilet stall.
Posted by Post_Mortem on June 10, 2014 at 12:58 PM · Report this
Post_Mortem 2
Also, Grober would have had to have been prescient, since the drawing was done about 5 years before the scandal to which you mistakenly impute reference. Is it your position that Mr. Grober is a precognicent psychic because the man's feet he has drawn are perhaps wider apart than your own tend to be?
Posted by Post_Mortem on June 10, 2014 at 2:10 PM · Report this

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