SAN FRANCISCO, CA, April 14, 2003—The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced today the acquisition of two seminal works by American postwar artists—Robert Gober’s Untitled, 1990, and Richard Artschwager’s Triptych III, 1967. The Gober is a purchase through numerous funds and individuals; the Artschwager is a purchase through a gift of the late Phyllis Wattis and anonymous donors. Each work joins two others by each artist already in the Museum’s permanent collection, and they are both currently on view on the Museum’s second floor.
Robert Gober’s Untitled, 1990, is a unique sculpture of a male torso, crafted of beeswax, pigment and human hair. While, like much of Gober’s work the torso looks realistic, its shape is that of the sack of plaster from which it was cast, and the work sits on the gallery floor, slumped against a wall. The torso has long been a central motif in Gober’s practice, spanning his career from the early 1980s through the present. The final visual result is uncanny, at once familiar and strange, logical and illogical.
As its title implies, Triptych III, 1967, by Richard Artschwager is a three-paneled object that hangs on a wall. The surface of the piece is covered in Artschwager’s trademark marbled, caramel-colored Formica. The format of the work consciously recalls medieval altarpieces, but traditional religious iconography has been replaced by a rich, swirling field of a mass-produced, mundane material originally intended for use in kitchen and office furnishings.
Describing the significance of these new acquisitions to the SFMOMA collection, Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture Madeleine Grynsztejn explains, “SFMOMA is committed to building concentrations of work by important artists. Each piece speaks to its creator’s primary artistic concerns—Gober’s exploration of the body as representing both timely and timeless themes, and Artschwager’s combination of manufactured materials with historical forms to work within the gaps and overlaps between such modes of representation as art and furniture, the functional and the aesthetic, representation and abstraction. Gober’s Untitled resonates equally with our post-minimalist, surrealist and contemporary holdings, while Triptych III creates a powerful bridge between the pop art and minimalist groupings that are such a strength of our collection. Generating such a connection among the works in our permanent collection is one of our primary goals.”
Robert Gober was born in suburban Connecticut in 1954. Having first gained attention in the mid-1980s for making strangely unsettling sculpture derived from ordinary household items such as sinks, cribs and armchairs, Gober has more recently undertaken an intensely powerful and eloquent investigation of the body. His work is both extremely personal and yet constitutes a rich social history that alludes to themes both timely—such as the onslaught of AIDS—and timeless—such as mortality, sexuality and spirituality. Over the past 18 years, Gober become increasingly recognized as one of the most important artists of his generation; in 2001 he was selected to be the United States representative at the Venice Biennale.
Born in 1923, Richard Artschwager was a key figure in the art world of the 1960s and 1970s, yet his work refuses to sit easily within the boundaries of either of the two movements with which he is most frequently identified: Pop art and Minimalism. He is best known for Formica-covered sculptures that resemble furniture but also convey the cool, manufactured feel of minimalist sculpture. Trained as a scientist, Artschwager spent 15 years as a successful furniture maker in New York before deciding to make art in the early 1960s. Artschwager’s first solo show was held at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1965, and he has remained a vital contributor to the field of contemporary art ever since.
Beeswax, pigment and human hair
Collection SFMOMA, purchased through the Accessions Committee Fund, Rita and Toby Schreiber, by exchange, various donors, the Members Accessions Fund, and the Lenore and Ira Gershwin Fund
Triptych III, 1967
Formica on plywood and wood
Collection SFMOMA, purchased through a gift of Phyllis Wattis and anonymous donors