• 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. Michaelcraig-martin-onbeinganartist-istnicethat-list

    In some circumstances, calling a book On Being An Artist would seem pretentious and pompous, but if anyone knows about being an artist, it’s Michael Craig-Martin. Over his extraordinary career he has studied with Chuck Close and Richard Serra, met the likes of Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, John Cage and Charles Saatchi, had work shown at Tate Modern, the Pompidou Centre and MoMA, and taught some of the YBAs’ leading lights including Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas.

  2. Ricco_maresca_mexican_pulp_art_its_nice_that_list_2

    Ballsy, bizarre and a little bit racy, these Mexican pulp fiction book covers are fantastic fun and epitomise our need for a bit of weird naughtiness. The kitsch-factor is overwhelming as scantily clad women run away in terror, a man in purple spandex is surrounded by adoring cats and giant robots menacingly pick up shiny red cars.

    As part of an exhibition at New York gallery Ricco Maresca held earlier this year, the collection is a celebration of pulp paperbacks released in Mexico during the 60s and 70s. Many of the artists remain unidentified which is a shame as some of these are absolute gems. Without book titles, there’s no context for the artwork and we’re left with the ordinary and extraordinary crashing into each other in glorious fashion. According to Ricco Maresca, there’s a key difference between Mexican pulp art and the American pulp art coming out at the same time. As well as the drama and sauciness, much of Mexican pulp art prominently featured violence, sci-fi, psychedelia, and crime, making it all the more outrageous.

  3. Yayoi-kusama-itsnicethat-list

    Yayoi Kusama is one of few artists who is seems to be without comparison. Her new exhibition, Give Me Love takes place at New York’s David Zwirner gallery, and features a collection of her enormous brightly coloured canvases. Their sunny dispositions are undercut with titles which reveal a more disquieting undertone for example I Who Cry in the Flowering Season, or I Am Dying Now There the Death Is. In another room a series of her bulging Pumpkin sculptures, reminiscent of decaying fruit in spite of their metallic sheen and polka dot finish, reinforces the juxtaposition of the joyous and the sinister.

  4. Brest_history_and_chips_it's_nice_that_list

    Imagine a John Stezaker collage let loose in the kitchen and you’ve got the History and Chips series from Brest Brest Brest. With a portfolio that includes a poster of Elvis Presley’s face emerging from a melting ice cream, the graphic design studio based in the south of France couldn’t fail to pique our interest. For their playful History and Chips collages, Rémy Poncet and Arnaud Jarsaillon have raided the fridge and dressed up classic movie stills and vintage portraits with everything from smoked salmon and mustard, to ham and pineapple. A testament to the fact that food makes everything better, these old pictures are given a new lease of life thanks to a little bubblegum and a wry sense of humour.

  5. Olafur_eliasson_the_weather_project_it's_nice_that

    This week the most visited modern and contemporary art museum in the world celebrates its 15 year anniversary. After its transformation from derelict power station to beloved beacon of British culture, Tate Modern has defined a generation and helped open art to the everyman. Here, we look at some of the top moments over the last decade and a half at Britain’s leading arts institution.

  6. Kings-cross-pond-ooze-architects-its-nice-that-list

    I’ve slid down an art installation before thanks to Carsten Höller, and I’ve frolicked about in a room full of balloons thanks to Martin Creed, but never before had I literally swum in art until this morning. Bright and early, there I was shivering in art, thanks to a bathing pond art installation in a building site in London’s King’s Cross. The piece, formally known as Of Soil and Water: the King’s Cross Pond Club , was created by Ooze Architects (Eva Pfannes and Sylvain Hartenberg) and artist Marjetica Potrč, and takes the form of a natural, chemical-free pool, complete with plants and bushes. And who knows what else – I didn’t dare think what one day could be lurking in there after the maggoty old python Hampstead Heath ponds story of a few years back. 

  7. List

    They wowed us in 2010 with their pop-up cinema in an old petrol station in Clerkenwell, The Cineroleum, and the following year they won us over with Folly for a Flyover in Hackney Wick. Now, after 15 years of transforming unusual spaces, the east London collective Assemble has been shortlisted for the 2015 Turner Prize for the revival of a cluster of derelict terraced houses in Liverpool, Granby Four Streets. Borne out of the DIY-culture and the flurry of pop-ups like Bold Tendencies that took London by storm a few years ago, the collective of 18 designers and architects is an exciting choice, and a first for the often sensational art prize.

  8. List-erik-kessels-unfinished-father_002-its-nice-that

    Kesselskramer co-founder Erik Kessels’ side projects usually seem light-hearted: take his book Attack of the Giant Fingers, for instance. His latest project, though, has a decidedly more serious slant, having been borne of his father suffering a stroke. For the project, named Unfinished Father, Erik looked to his pa’s passion for restoring Fiat 500 (Topolino) cars. Prior to his stroke, Kessels senior was halfway through completing his fifth of such restorations, but it was left unfinished since the attack left him barely able to move or speak.

  9. List-jeremy-deller-vinyl-factory-venice-biennale-its-nice-that

    All-round superdude Jeremy Deller has created a jukebox for the Venice Biennale. But instead of Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way or other pub staples like Russ Abbott’s Atmosphere, it plays only the sounds of factories. Cleverly named Factory Records, the piece contains 40 seven-inch records, each of which features the ambient sound of a different factory. Visitors to the piece can put on whichever they fancy, and if they really like it, they will be able to buy the sounds as a limited-edition box set designed by Deller with Fraser Muggeridge and released by The Vinyl Factory. The work continues Deller’s ongoing investigations into English working-class concerns, and links to his Venice Biennale performative piece, which uses archive materials to look at factory working conditions from the 19th Century to the present day.

  10. Robertnicol-itsnicethat-list

    It’s been a few years now since we posted the work of artist, illustrator and Camberwell tutor Robert Nicol, but our tardiness only means there’s a heap of new work for us to enjoy in his portfolio. From paintings to book covers, editorial illustrations to ceramic sculptures, Rob’s able to turn his versatile talents to a number of different ends. It’s interesting to look at his work together and see how he can amplify or refine certain traits depending on the job in hand. So we have his wonderful paintings where bold colours and surreal characters are given free rein, contrasted with his stylish book covers where hints of narrative achieve a lot in a quieter context.

  11. List--itsnicethat-ppic0035_picasso

    It’s always great to see another side of the biggest names in art, and in this selection of posters from artists including Picasso, Henri Matisse, Yves Klein and Le Corbusier, our curiosity is amply satisfied. These masters’ works have been drawn together for a London exhibition showcasing lithographic posters from the archive of Galerie Mourlot, which originated in Paris but now calls New York its home. Each of the posters is lithograph printed, and all are fascinating; many showing a looser style to the ones we’re so familiar with from these big names.

  12. Christophniemann-esgibtnichtgutes-itsnicethat-list

    My colleague Emily Gosling wrote a great piece for the latest issue of our Printed Pages magazine in which she called out the patent nudity of the emperor by saying that in reality, the creative process can be pretty dull to witness. Obviously that’s not to say that we want to see slick creative work with all traces of the artist removed; in fact in our digitally-defined age we delight in being able to see the spirit of the image-maker writ large.

  13. Kristoffersonsanpablo-itsnicethat-list

    If you like Eric Yahnker – and let’s face it, who doesn’t? – then you’re really going to enjoy the work of Kristofferson San Pablo, a Filipino artist now based in Los Angeles. His work takes an ironic look at popular culture, lampooning it for its absurdity, but also acknowledging its utter infectiousness. Kristofferson’s strange pencil drawings and luxurious paintings eroticise Simpsons characters, destroy our lust for celebrities and ridicule the stars of reality television, making sure that when surveying the modern world our tongues are kept firmly in cheek.