• 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. Samchirnside-int-list

    I don’t know what it is about seeing colours up close that’s so mesmerising, but Sam Chirnside is all over it. The Melbourne and New York-based artist works predominantly with oil paints to create strangely beautiful distortions, which work best when overlaid with a band logo to create album artwork, or cut out in geometric shapes. His works resemble planetary compositions straight out of a senior school physics textbook or a happy spillage in an art classroom, and we can’t get enough of them.

  2. Jacksmith-npg-int-list

    For the first time ever a show at the National Portrait Gallery in London contains no human faces. Jack Smith: Abstract Portraits which opened late last week is the first exhibition in the gallery’s 159-year history that includes no figurative portraits as Smith’s work is made up of abstract shapes and colours. Of course there’s nothing new about the idea of a portrait being something other than a traditional head and shoulders painting, but it is noteworthy that one of London’s leading galleries should take such a decisive step.

  3. Benjamin-dittrich-int-list

    German graphic artist Benjamin Dittrich is principally concerned with scale at both a micro and macro level. He preoccupies himself with subjects as large as the cosmos and as minute as molecular structures, zooming in and out in his textural works to reveal vast and complex systems. His retro-futuristic work is breathtakingly complex, utilising painted and printed layers to launch you though time and space. He’s got a new show opening at Spinnerei Archiv Massiv tonight in Leipzig, which if you’re based nearby we’d urge you to get down to. Utterly beautiful stuff!

  4. Chyrumlambert-port-2-int_copy

    Los Angeles-based artist Chyrum Lambert uses formal constraints like grid systems and scalpel blades to contain and compose his paintings made up of cut-and-paste figures, patterns and abstract narratives.

  5. Blamey-ct-6-int

    David Blamey, the artist who founded publisher Open Editions, has authored the first release from Continuous Tone, a series of sound works that treat the medium as a viable space for the production of art.

  6. Nathalie-due-pasquier-int-list-3

    Nathalie Du Pasquier is a figure who seems to leave a trail of intrigue behind her everywhere she goes. This is largely because, as a founding member of the Memphis group (an Italian design and architecture group founded in Milan in 1981) she’s been an unstoppable force in shaping the design world as we know it, colours, angles, ideas and all. But it’s also partly because her work is just so much fun.

  7. Escape-to-destiny-1mehdi-ghadyanloo-int-list

    Merging the style of the early 20th Century surrealists with contemporary street art, Tehran-based artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo’s work is strange and beguiling. He’s currently in London, busying himself with the mammoth task of creating murals all around the capital, including one measuring a whopping 3.4km. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also showing at the Howard Griffin Gallery in London, in an exhibition entitled Perception.

  8. List

    Highbrow folk like us often find the traditional emoticon can struggle to express how we really feel. We don’t ALWAYS want to convey that we’re blindly happy, crying with laughter or horizontally-lipped and nonplussed. Sometimes, we need something a little more creative. Thank the lord, then, that Hyo Hong has come up with just the solution, in the form of the multifaceted (in its truest sense) Cindy Sherman-icon.

  9. Art-belikov-int-list

    I can’t tell you a whole lot about Lithuanian artist Art Belikov other than he’s 24 years old and, er, Lithuanian. And that all his images are fantastical digital creations. But in spite of the lack of background information currently available to me I’d just like to say that his work is extraordinary. He’s a maker of 3D rendered images depicting scenes borrowed from late 90s sci-fi; all “vintage” cell phones and games consoles, cans of mysterious energy drinks and designer bottled water. There’s a 666 in his URL too so you can be sure he’s a cool guy! When we finally track the man down we’ll ask him some questions about what it all means, but for now just drink in the eerie beauty of his digital creations.

  10. Jessica-brilli-int-17

    If when you close your eyes at night you dream of tying a silk kerchief over your carefully curled ’do and hopping in a classic Chevy to sail down the West Coast, you might find yourself as enamoured as I do with the work of painter Jessica Brilli. She favours endless-seeming roads and vintage cars for her expressive oil paintings, and she’s got recreating them on canvas down to a fine art. Her landscapes are dream-like in their expansiveness and colour palette, while her portraits seems to hark back to an era when a Chevy was still commonplace and kerchiefs were still pretty cool. And a little picturesque fantasy never hurt anybody, eh?

  11. London-is-changing-intlist

    Public art project London is Changing makes Londoners uncomfortably aware of the truths we’re perhaps trying to ignore: that our city is morphing beyond recognition, that creativity is at risk, and that for many people, it’s simply becoming unaffordable.

  12. Bensanders-potdealer-3-int_copy

    While keeping himself busy with postmodern Howard Hodgkin-esque painting and collage work, Ben Sanders is somehow finding the time to paint funny faces on ceramics. Cutting through the “worthy lifestyle” pottery trend with googly eyes, zigzag nostrils and creepy grins, Ben has stamped his sense of humour and aesthetic all over these thriving succulents’ homes.

  13. Olafur-eliasson_little-sun-int-1

    A “giddy joy” was described as the feeling evoked by the artwork of Olafur Eliasson when we interviewed him for last year’s Autumn edition of Printed Pages, and with his monumental, often participatory pieces, it’s not hard to see why. From his incredible 2003 Weather Project at Tate Modern to its portable, socially-conscious, tiny counterpart Little Sun(which “produces clean, affordable, and portable solar-powered lamps to areas of the world without reliable access to electricity”), his work is a glorious, utterly original ray of light shining on the sometimes impenetrable art world.