© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2006.291
People
Robert Gober, American (Wallingford, CT born 1954)
Title
Hanging Man / Sleeping Man
Classification
Prints
Work Type
print
Date
1989
Culture
American
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Offset lithography on wallpaper
Technique
Photolithograph
Dimensions
Sheet: 241 x 75.3 cm (94 7/8 x 29 5/8 in.)
Framed: 175.26 x 86.36 cm (69 x 34 in.)
Sheet, as framed, to top of wooden dowel: 161 x 75.3 cm (63 3/8 x 29 5/8 in.)
Sheet, as framed, to bottom of wooden dowel: 164 x 75.3 cm (64 9/16 x 29 5/8 in.)
Wooden dowel: width 81 cm (31 7/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: Signed and dated in graphite pencil: "R. Gober '89"
  • inscription: 62" from top right in graphite pencil: R. Gober '89
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Purchase through the generosity of John Silberman
Copyright
© Robert Gober
Accession Year
2006
Object Number
2006.291
Division
Modern and Contemporary Art
Contact
am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
Offset lithography on wallpaper, framed, with lower portion of sheet wrapped around wooden "scroll" bar.
Commentary
Robert Gober's Hanging Man / Sleeping Man, 1989, depicts repeating images of a lynched black man hanging from a tree juxtaposed with a sleeping white man in bed, printed on wallpaper. The "hanging man" image was taken from a late 1920s political cartoon from Texas, and the "sleeping man" from a Sunday newspaper advertisement for sheets from Bloomingdales. The artist has said that by juxtaposing these images he felt that he was implicating the white man in the lynching: "I thought it was an image of guilt, an image of troubled sleep, a dream of something horrible that had happened; but it was also multi-layered, there was a piece missing in that puzzle about the crime, about what happened and what the story was, and it was left up to the viewer….Also, the sleeping man could have been dreaming, so there was the possibility that this was a racist fantasy or dream, which I felt gave the work its edge-but I think it brought up big problems too." The print was first exhibited at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York. A year later (1990) it was included as the background in an installation/collaboration with artist Sherrie Levine at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. where it became the center of controversy as many museum employees of African American descent found it offensive. The work thus becomes an interesting study in representation and interpretation.
Publication History

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 246, ill.

Exhibition History

Contemporary Art from the Harvard University Art Museums Collections, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/23/2007 - 01/31/2008

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu