box construction—plywood, forged iron, plaster, latex paint, incandescent and fluorescent lights and electrical hardware
window: 23¾ x 23¾ in. (60.3 x 60.3 cm.)
overall: 48 x 53 x 36 in. (121.9 x 134.6 x 91.4 cm.)
Executed in 1992. This work is number five from an edition of five plus one artist’s proof.
“Through his depiction of seemingly mundane objects such as a sink, crib, chair, along with isolated body parts, American artist Robert Gober explores themes of family, religion, sexuality, alienation and memory, both collective and private. With painstaking and meticulous detail he renders these thought-provoking sculptures by hand to build a universe that investigates the psychological and symbolic power of the objects in our everyday lives. In Gober’s 1992 work, Prison Window, the artist creates a space imbued with a deep sense of longing and frustration in order to elicit a strong emotional response from the viewer. One of the most engaging and thought-provoking works of Gober’s oeuvre, the artist uses a deceptively spare two-foot square section of a wall to create an emotional and psychological experience.
Gober uses the imagery of a window in Prison Window, which presents a passage or portal. A gateway from inside to out, from containment to freedom, windows typically serve as a representation of movement. In Gober’s typical fashion, he takes this imagery associated with a window and transmutes it to an experience in which the viewer questions his or her own association and relationship to the object. The viewer is struck with a sense of longing that one often associates with feelings of containment, which are underscored by the use of iron bars to block the accessibility of the window.
A square 24-inch relief cut into a white wall, backlit by fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs, presents the realistic image of a sunlit window. But instead of depicting this window as an opening, Gober places three black forged-iron bars across the relief, translating it into an inaccessible space. Although windows are often viewed as a threshold to the outside world or as a means of escape, Gober renders this work frustratingly and disappointingly impenetrable. By placing the window above the viewer’s reach and encasing it with bars, the usually inviting representation of a window is replaced by a sealed passageway. This obscured window represents Gober’s fascination with creating spaces and art works that serve as an odd simulacrum of their real life counterpart. While realistic, these works are slightly eerie and peculiar. Through such familiar and apparently innocuous objects, Gober creates a physical parallel world that exists alongside the real one, whereby he is able to expose the uncanny in the everyday.”
When I saw this work several weeks ago, it grasped my thoughts for many days. I think, Gober masterfully attacks the lines between comfort and discomfort in our lives. Our idea of self satisfaction is closely connected with necessarity to have absolute freedom in physical Location. Though we insist that inner freedom is the thing that nobody can take away from us, outer containment of Location can easily lead to the stagnation of inner liberty.