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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Robert Gober, American (Wallingford, CT born 1954)
Hanging Man / Sleeping Man
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Offset lithography on wallpaper
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
© Robert Gober
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Offset lithography on wallpaper, framed, with lower portion of sheet wrapped around wooden "scroll" bar.
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, Cambridge, 06/23/2007 - 01/31/2008

Verification Level

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