• Gilbert--george-attacker-2011-a4

    Gilbert & George: Attacker, 2011

  • Gilbert--george-baby-straight-2011-a4

    Gilbert & George: Baby Straight, 2011

  • Gilbert--george-banker-2011-a4

    Gilbert & George: Banker, 2011

  • Gilbert--george-bomb-straight-2011-a4

    Gilbert & George: Bomb Straight, 2011

  • Gilbert--george-cyclist-straight-2011-a4

    Gilbert & George: Cyclist Straight, 2011

  • Gilbert--george-death-2011-a4

    Gilbert & George: Death, 2011

  • Gilbert--george-london-crime-2011-a4

    Gilbert & George: London, 2011

Art

What's On: Gilbert & George

Posted by Charlotte Simmonds,

Gilbert & George are self confessed thieves. Of the 40 years they’ve spent living and making art around London’s East End, they’ve dedicated the past six to stealing tabloid posters from news agents and off-licenses. The process is calculated – while one buys a chewing gum, the other nicks the poster from it’s curb-side stand. Together they amassed a collection of exactly 3,712, and together they’ve turned the 3,712 into 292 London Pictures, which tomorrow go on display in White Cube Gallery’s three London locations. It’s the largest showing of Gilbert & George’s work to date.

Gilbert & George are a duo as symbiotic as bangers and mash. In person they dress in coordinated tweed suits (with matching ties) and speak collectively about their work, alternately offering well-considered answers and finish each other’s sentences. It’s a studied, though none-the-less amusing performance.

London Pictures is also theatrical and methodical in equal measures: bold colours and harsh words roped within a repetitious, grid-like design. The posters have been grouped thematically with key words highlighted in a bloody red. BOMB. BANKERS. MONEY. SEX. STABBED TO DEATH. It’s a mural-sized mash-up of (mainly bad) modern news, a patchwork of human suffering, our society’s scandals and sorrows.

Gilbert & George assert the pictures “made themselves”, they’ve merely formed a set of rules and followed them. First, do not violate the text – it must be printed exactly as it appeared on the poster. Second, there are photographs layered behind (self-portraits and east london street scenes), but these must not conflict with the text. With these in place the artists set about cataloguing the raw material. “It was almost sickening”, says George “to see them all [the posters] piled up on our floor. On the one hand they exist to sell a newspaper, but they also exist because they are real. This man was really killed on the tube. That woman was really raped that evening.”

But London Pictures morose overtones are not about despair, they assure. Gilbert tells us the works is “a celebration of life”, albeit the grimmer side, and the one which most readily presents itself in the city of London, their perpetual muse. "We are interested in making human art. This is art about real people, what we are doing to each other. We can address issues in this work that we could never take on before. You can’t draw a “yob” or photograph “murder”, it would be patronising."

A fair point indeed, in this manner Gilbert & George remain both engaged and distanced from their subjects. By presenting the headlines back to us unaltered, they offer commentary but sidestep trite interpretation. Further analysis is left up to us.

This is work about the people, but is it for the people? Seeing that they’ve appropriated public material, I ask if they would, in an ideal world, take London Pictures out of the gallery and back onto the streets? Put it up on a wall, somewhere where everyone could see it?

“No”, George firmly tells me. “We want the work to be seen in a gallery. If you put books on the pavement that won’t make more people read them. People come to a gallery space to pay attention, to concentrate on the art.”

But rather than a ploy for exclusivity, George’s point is about context and giving art is due consideration. In fact, his enthusiasm for encouraging gallery attendance is palpable. “The number one reason people didn’t see a show is because they didn’t know it was on,” he enlightens us. “That’s why we’ve put such big banners outside, we want people to know it’s here, that it’s free. That’s why we’re taking it all over the world. We hope that people will go away feeling a little bit different because they have seen the pictures.”

Well, you heard the men.

London Pictures runs March 9 – April 14 at White Cube: Bermondsey St, White Cube: Mason’s Yard, and White Cube: Hoxton Square, London.

Portrait11

Posted by Charlotte Simmonds

Californian Charlotte joined us as an editorial intern after studying at New York university and London Metropolitan University. She wrote for the site between January and March 2012.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. List-2

    Anna Valdez is the kind of artist who makes me want to swathe myself and everything around me in layers of tropical prints and geometric patterns and embrace a new sartorial existence as a wannabe art teacher. Her mastery of textiles is so thorough that some of her pieces almost feel like studies, an effect which makes sense considering her academic interests. With a background in anthropology she paints domestic interiors as though they were portraits, with every detail contributing to the overall effect, whether it be house plants, intricately reproduced book covers, woolly jumpers or oriental rugs.

  2. List

    Australian artist Kit Webster is has long been fascinated with the emotional and psychological tricks he can play through the manipulation of sound and light. His new piece Hypercube is a concentric cubic sculpture with a 120-metre LED set-up that can be controlled using specially-created software. The pre-recorded cycles allow Kit to control the viewer’s experience, speeding the cube up to a frenzy and breaking the tension with meditative moments of calm.

  3. Main

    Apologies if this is a slightly dismayed post, but upon thinking I had stumbled across a gem via Nieves’ announcement of some new zines I was excited to be the first to write about Keegan McHargue on It’s Nice That. Alas I was not, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t shout about his brilliance once more.

  4. List

    When I was a teenager I’d have given my right arm for patches emblazoned with the lyrics of my favourite songs. It was the height of cool to be covered in brightly-coloured band paraphernalia (or at least I thought so). German artist Selma Alaçam clearly thought so too as her latest project Heartstrings combines some of her favourite song lyrics from the likes of Fiona Apple and Depeche Mode. The seven woven rugs – based on the traditional kelim, native to Turkey – have been hand-embroidered with bold typographic verses, whose personal importance is known only to the artist. To the rest of us these embroideries are like beautifully ambiguous album covers, enticing you in with their bright, bold colours.

  5. List

    It’s plain to see that Lee Marshall’s artwork is a product of the digital age; his smooth gradients, vectorised objects and figures apparently created in an early version of Corel Draw all evoke the atmosphere of an abstract digital landscape. But Lee’s creations all exist in the real world as paintings, drawings and sculptures, bringing a unique physicality to environments we’d expect to experience on a flat screen. The Norwich School of Art graduate has been perfecting this signature style since his student days, but with an ever-increasing list of group and solo shows to his name we’re expecting more great things from Lee over the coming months and years.

  6. List

    Let’s all give a big round of applause to the people behind Instagram who, in creating a convenient photo-based social media outlet, also paved the way for Instagram artists. If Instagram is the Impressionist salon of our time, then right at the forefront of this digital gallery is Kalen Hollomon, whose own brand of photo-collage is a tongue-in-cheek giggle at both the fashion industry and at commuters in general, and is hugely popular with it.

  7. List

    It’s fair to say that Interview magazine, founded by Andy Warhol in 1969, had some serious sway over popular culture throughout the 1970s and 80s. With its pop art-driven aesthetic and its constant pursuit of features with the superstars of the day it has grown to occupy seminal status. And this is due in no small part to Richard Bernstein, the artist behind the publication’s iconic cover imagery.

  8. List

    Imagine going to a party with a bunch of your favourite creatives and each picking up a paintbrush, a pot of ink, and creating the drawing equivalent of a huge, diverse orgy on a very long piece of paper. I’m sure for some people that kind of malarkey is the norm, but for most of us, we need the help of an organising body in making experimental ideas and collaborative practice come to life. Enter Sumi Ink Club, the participatory drawing project we first wrote about three years ago which was founded in 2005 by LA-based artists Sarah Rara (I know, right) and Luke Fishbeck. For 13 years now they’ve been the source behind a string of public meeting planned by anybody, anytime, which seek to mirror open social interactions with the act of putting paintbrush to paper.

  9. List

    It’s 100 years since Britain entered the First World War and to mark the centenary, the Tower of London is being surrounded by nearly 900,00 ceramic poppies. Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is the brainchild of artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper and will grow between now and November when there will be 888,246 flowers in the dry moat, one for every British or British Colony soldier killed during the fighting.

  10. Main7

    There was a time when we at It’s Nice That were inundated with internet art – we were having so much submitted to us on a daily basis that it was pouring out of our ears in waxy gifs. It’s pleasing to be faced with it again, a year or two after the craze has kind of died out, when it’s created by someone who actually has a passion and an eye for this stuff and isn’t just jumping on a weird bandwagon.

  11. List

    It feels like Max and Adele at Atelier bingo lead a pretty charmed life. Camped out in the middle of the countryside with their converted studio/barn, it would be easy to resent the life they lead – in fact sometimes it’s very easy indeed. But the work they’re producing – stunning screen prints and collages of abstract forms – keeps me returning to their website time after time, and I just can’t find it in my heart to resent their rural idyll. Though if they called me up tomorrow to invite me to come and live with them, I’d definitely have a hard time saying no.

  12. List

    Here at It’s Nice That we spend an awful lot of time talking about, thinking about and writing about creatives but ultimately we don’t get too many chances to really see what goes on in their day-to-day working lives…until now. Our new collaboration with super-cool eyewear brand Ace & Tate is taking us inside the studios, and inside the minds, of a host of some of our favourite creatives.

  13. List

    Some artists, immensely talented and original though they may be, simply don’t make work that fits in the grandest art galleries of the world. Fortunately for them there are super-cool concept stores created specifically to house such work, and queen of all of these is Colette. Hiro Sugiyama’s surreal, hilarious and altogether unsettling artwork is a natural fit for Paris store Colette’s carefully curated collection of the avant-grade and the offbeat.