Arts » Art

He's All That

OK, we get it: Archie Scott Gobber works hard.


I AM THE SHIT, brags one installation in Archie Scott Gobber's show Ready or Not. And who are we to doubt him? The largest (5 feet tall, 25 feet long) of four visibly handcrafted pieces, it provokes a laugh and a question: Is he serious?

In a word, no. "It's sort of a ludicrous statement," Gobber says. "What is shit? It's like when bad meant good." It's a simple explanation, one that reinforces Gobber's attraction to the simple statement, the short sound byte expressed in his austere arrangements of wood, aluminum and found objects. In "I Am the Shit," tent-shaped plastic panels stand in a row of peaks; on each panel is one large enamel-painted letter. Gobber has a penchant for old-fashioned colors, evident in the yellow and red borders of the white letters. Standing against a black background, they resemble the block style of high school letter jackets or cheerleader megaphones from 50 years ago. "It looks like a football team should be running through it," Gobber says of the installation. And there's a bonus, he says. "You can be more bawdy or tawdry if you make things look more nostalgic."

The repeating triangle shapes combine with minimal use of lighting to create a work that looks homemade. Less noticeable is the way that the corners of the letters are lit from beneath and the silver plastic glows like fogged glass. Peek behind the panels, and the piece reveals its secrets: five 100-watt light bulbs burning brightly, the utility hidden in the artifice.

Gobber's themes of craft and labor continue in "Perfecto," for which he has gathered and arranged on a ladderlike cedar structure signs that he found or his friends gave him. Starting at the top (provocatively close to the ceiling lights) is the sideways P; from there, the overturned letters descend to form the work's title. All of the letters are painted or collaged onto the signs, and they vary in size and style: A black R stands on a red background; CT is applied to a wooden kitchen table; E appears on the back of a sign that advises: "Look-Listen-Look out for cars." Conspicuously missing is the O. But the letter is created by its absence, with wooden corner pieces forming an empty round hole that reveals the stand's supporting structure, emphasizing how the visible and the hidden collaborate to form the whole.

The sleek, cold, shiny "Jesus" stands in stark contrast to the warmer pieces in the show. With silver aluminum framing the piece at the top and bottom, the word Jesus appears in hot-pink paint against a dark-brown background; the top half of the word is cut off. Masking tape is visible in a paper seam along the first S, and a drop of paint appears as if intentionally spilled on the U.

Minus the bold statements, Gobber's art is as unimposing and unassuming as a street sign. It's part art, part advertising and part comment on the creative process. This is most clear in his strongest work, "Art Is Workmanship." Gobber expresses the sentiment by finishing some of his letters — giving them full borders and red shadows — but leaving others as pencil sketches. He gives part of the sign a black background, but rough brush strokes reveal this to be work in progress as well.

In Gobber's hands, art is work, and the ugly pieces of masking tape, the drops of paint, the unfinished letters, the bare light bulbs and the found materials won't let us forget.


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