Iraq Plate inspiration
“When you know that the painted tissue box is bronze, you know that it is unnaturally heavy, and then the meanings start to flow from the physical thing itself,” Gober has said about this piece, which is based on items present in his psychiatrist’s office. “This object was the silent companion to my talking cure.”
“It’s a meditation on the object and the elevation of the mundane,” says Tom Sachs, who, for his recent show at Sperone Westwater in New York, placed exact facsimiles of a car battery and a cinder block on a “plywood” pedestal, all cast from bronze. “I love batteries because they store all that potential energy, and the cinder block is one of those incredible miracle materials that has provided housing for people who previously wouldn’t have been able to afford it.” Sachs recognized that not all viewers noticed the transformation in materials.
All of these artists play with the space of the encounter, which Engberg argues stretches back to Marcel Duchamp’s practice of plucking ordinary objects from life and placing them in the context of the museum as “readymades.” But rather than just taking a urinal, say, and putting it in a gallery, contemporary artists are “taking an object from life, lovingly remaking it, and putting it in the gallery.” Elizabeth Armstrong, curator of contemporary art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, calls it the “reverse readymade,” a phenomenon she has seen over the last decade or two. “It’s taking Duchamp and standing him on his head—this notion of returning to what art used to be, beautifully crafted handmade objects, but in fact they look like throwaways.”