Cob I

Copied Nancy Grossman, Cob I, 1980, carved wood, leather, nails, paint, lacquered paint, horn, and lead, 17 349 1410 12 in. (45.023.526.8 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, 1986.6.38, © 1980, Nancy Grossman

Artwork Details

Cob I
Not on view
17 349 1410 12 in. (45.023.526.8 cm.)
© 1980, Nancy Grossman
Credit Line
Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation
Mediums Description
carved wood, leather, nails, paint, lacquered paint, horn, and lead
  • Fantasy — monster
  • Figure male — head
  • Dress — costume — mask
Object Number

Artwork Description

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 With horns emerging from the top of the head, Cob I resembles a satyr or a “cob,” an outdated English word for devil.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.”

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