James Gobel

June 25, 2000 - September 17, 2000


James Gobel's meticulous attention to detail and his use of felt, yarn and fabric—all supple and highly tactile materials ususally associated with homemade handicrafts—imbues his gently humorous portraits with a sense of loving familiartiy and intense devotion. Referencing Pop art as well as the portraits of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Gobel's paintings celebrate the unsung sensuality of heayset men.

About the Exhibition

By Nayland Blake


I feel fat today, and I'm glad. James Gobel's pictures make me feel glad, make me want to live in the world they present, a world of smiling fat men, shown singly or in pairs, at home, in bars, and outdoors. Meticulously constructed of yarn and felt, Gobel's pictures are at once warm and blank, homey and oddly unsettling in their single-mindedness. At first they seem to be pictures of "regular guys"—truckers, repairmen, working-class buds for the most part. They wear flannel shirts and facial hair and hang out in bars or cellars. They might all be members of the same extended family. As I look at them longer, I notice the details that lurk around the corners of the images—the logo on a T-shirt, a particular tattoo—which clue me in to the fact that something else is going on with these guys.


Like most young artists, James Gobel was able to discover what he needed to do only by first collecting a bunch of stuff he wanted to look at. That stuff turned out to be pinup magazines featuring large men: Bear, Bulk Male, Heavy Duty, American Bear, American Grizzly, Husky, The Big Ad. We can make a picture of what we love, we can make ourselves into what we love, or we can love ourselves. In 1995 Gobel deliberately made himself bigger, gaining thirty-five pounds in a month. In documenting his weight gain, he referred to Carving (1973), a work in which conceptual artist eleanor Antin documented her own weight loss. Antin was one of many women artists active in the early 1970s whose work reinvigorated contemporary art by foregrounding issues of gender and physicality. Carving makes clear the ways in which art helps to frame our ideas about which bodies are acceptable and which are not. Many gay artists of Gobel's generation have used the works of feminist artists like Antin as templates for their own attempts to articulate a queer position in opposition to the orthodoxies of today. More

Nayland Blake is an artist, curator, writer, and teacher. His work has been shown most recently at the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York. Heis currently on the faculty of Bard College, Parson's School of Design, and Harvard University.


Hammer projects are made possible, in part, with support from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Peter Norton Family Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

What's new at the hammer