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Cob I

1980 Nancy Grossman Born: New York, New York 1940 carved wood, leather, nails, paint, lacquered paint, horn, and lead 17 3/4 x 9 1/4 x 10 1/2 in. (45.0 x 23.5 x 26.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation © 1980, Nancy Grossman 1986.6.38 Not currently on view

Luce Center Quote

“I noticed how fragile people are. I saw how the human animal has to limit himself to live in our society---how he has to tie up any feelings he has that might upset the applecart.” Nancy Grossman, Time, June 13, 1969

Exhibition Label

In the 1960s Grossman began carving fetishistic wooden heads that she painted then covered in leather. In Cob I, demonlike horns project from the cranium and metal studs serve as eyes, transforming the individual within into a creature that represents the bestial side of human nature. Grossman speaks here to choice: “Nature gives us one face,” she says; “we make ourselves another.”

Modern American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection, 2014

Luce Center Label

Cob I is one in a series of wooden sculptures of heads wrapped in leather that Nancy Grossman began making in 1968. With horns emerging from the top of the head, Cob I resembles a satyr or a “cob,” an outdated English word for devil. “Cob” can also mean “the head of anything” or “to strike violently,” and the leather covering of Cob I recalls the bondage costumes used in sadistic sexual behavior. Grossman acknowledges the bestial side of humanity, and Cob I likely carries all of these associations. However, the piece expresses not only brutality, but vulnerability as well. The leather covering appears aggressive, but also protects the head by adding a second layer of “skin.” Grossman states that her sculptures do not depict any particular individual, but rather represent all the people she sees on the street who are afraid to be “caught feeling.”


Fantasy - monster

Figure male - head


animal parts - leather

metal - nails



About Nancy Grossman

Born: New York, New York 1940

More works in the collection by
Nancy Grossman