Robert Gober

The Ascending Sink

Not on view



Plaster, wood, wire lath, steel, and enamel

Overall: 92 × 38 × 27in. (233.7 × 96.5 × 68.6 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Promised gift of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner

Rights and reproductions
© Robert Gober


  • Collected by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner

    Robert Gober, The Ascending Sink, 1985

    Robert Gober, The Ascending Sink, 1985


    Elisabeth Sussman: The reason it needs two of them, probably, is because Gober is coming after the minimalist Donald Judd. Donald Judd would make these completely non‑objective objects and stack them up the wall. They were simply boxes inside. It was a different color from the outside, and there were maybe one or two of them or maybe one, two, three, four, five, six, and they would go up a wall like that.

    Gober is sort of, in a way, he's saying, "This is a sculptural object," by replicating it and stacking it on the wall like this. I think maybe that's why there are two. Because he wants to kind of, push back on this idea that this is a single sink—which is all about washing and cleaning and so on, whatever you, other meanings you want to bring to it. But it's also about the history of sculpture.

    What it then also says to me, if you get on that wavelength of why is it about the history of sculpture, I think what's really interesting about it is that he takes this kind of non‑objective box of Donald Judd stacked on the wall as his model prototype, and he gives it meaning.

  • Collected by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner

    Robert Gober, The Ascending Sink, 1985

    Robert Gober, The Ascending Sink, 1985


    Narrator: Robert Gober made this sculpture in 1988.

    Elisabeth Sussman: What they are, are the facsimiles of two laundry sinks that are mounted on a wall, one above the other. They are absolutely not functioning. The object that we're looking at doesn't really add up to anything. You have to project onto this what you think it means.

    What's always been very interesting to me is that Gober saw such sinks as these laundry sinks in his studio. For some reason, he was fascinated by the shape and by the look of this thing. So, rather than go to the hardware store and buy them, he decided he would make them. And he would make them to look exactly like the sinks.

    He reacts to the sink, he takes it out of its ordinary life and through this meticulous fabrication, he knows it, in a way. He lets the meaning of it, the original attraction to it, kind of filter into his unconscious mind through the process of making it. That's, in itself, profound to me.

    Beyond that, what does it mean? I mean, then you can start speculating, about what do you do with the sink. Do you wash your hands? Do you wash your tools? The one thing that comes out of it seems to be that you are just washing, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

    Then you say to yourself, "OK, but who needs two of them? One on top of the other exactly alike." You could say everything I just said to you about one sink. Why do you need two of them?

    That's a good question, I mean, I'm asking myself that question. But it—that boils down to maybe requiring an art historical answer.

    Narrator: If you’d like to hear more on this question, please tap your screen. 

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