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arts

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Gilbert & George
Gilbert Proesch (b. 1943) and George Passmore (b. 1942)
 
 
page: 1  2  3  4  

Other early series that were not performance pieces included Drinking Sculptures (1974), a series exploring drunkenness, and Bloody Life (1975). The latter series included a work entitled Coming (1975).

Consisting of a series of nine black-and-white photographic images arranged in a segmented grid, Coming included separate images of Gilbert & George with a splash of semen depicted in the center grid. By virtue of the fact that the two men lived and worked exclusively together, homosexuality was always an underlying concern in their work. Coming, however, made the unstated subject visible early in their career, even as their depiction of semen inaugurated a practice of depicting bodily fluids that would continue throughout their career.

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The duo also exhibited enormous paintings and charcoal drawings in galleries throughout London at this early point in their career. Their penchant for huge canvases would also continue throughout their career.

At the end of the 1970s, the artists seemed to be searching for an art form with which they were comfortable that also allowed them to express messages that were important to them.

One series entitled Dirty Word Pictures (1977-1978) quotes graffiti found in urban spaces throughout the world, but also specifically in their neighborhood. It caused a storm of criticism for the artists' use of expletives.

A work from the series entitled The Penis (1978) featured photographs of Gilbert & George awash in the color red. A black-and-white photograph of a graffiti sketch depicting an erect penis ejaculating onto a person's tongue is included, the word "suck" scrawled on a wall next to the drawing.

The series allowed the artists to put graffiti in an exhibition space and forced viewers to acknowledge and think about urban space as a sexual space. The photographic grid form and hand-colored black-and-white photographs used in Dirty Word Pictures continue to have meaning for Gilbert & George.

The 1980s

The artists came into their own during the 1980s. At the beginning of the decade they had a traveling mid-career retrospective exhibition at the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum in Eindoven.

At this time, the artists began to use an increasing number of colors in their photographic works. The presence of color emphasized the slick, stylized and cartoon-like appearance of their work. The content of these works continued to reflect urban space and morality, as well as the hope and fear associated with modern man and society. Their familiar themes--including religion, sex, and violence--were presented in a more distanced and ironic manner.

Series executed during this period include such titles as Shit Faith (1982), in which a Latin cross is formed in the center of the work, which consists of a representation of four brown turds issuing forth from four rosy, pink, bottoms. The cross functions as an ironic comment on the manner in which the church labels certain things (for example, gay men and excrement) as "dirty."

This work can also be viewed as a denunciation of the Christian faith and its central symbol of hope. Gilbert & George also, however, seem to show faith in a human product that society disposes of immediately and uses as a vulgar profanity.

Also in the 1980s, the artists began to create an increasing number of works with gay themes.

The anatomically explicit work entitled Hunger (1982) is illustrative of lust's urgency. This work presents two faces--one red with yellow highlights, the other, yellow with red highlights, painted in the same reversed patterning--engaged in fellatio. The red and yellow colors seem to speak of reciprocal, hot-blooded desire soon to be followed by the electric impulse of sexual climax.

Good (1983) makes a statement about the ambiguity of gay desire. This photographic work is overlaid against a gray-toned brick wall. A Latin cross, the central symbol of the Christian faith, is formed of over-lapping red roses, a Catholic symbol for the Virgin Mary. The rose is also a visual representation of the anus, locus of male-male sexual desire. Rose Hole (1980) uses the same sexual coding.

A number of the artists' works created during the 1980s center on the penis, male sexuality, and sex between men. Holy Cock (1982), for example, depicts a red, erect penis flanked by two testicles superimposed on a white background of flowing semen droplets.

In the mid-1980s, Gilbert & George's works displayed a compositional and chromatic exuberance. This exuberance was obvious in a major exhibition of their work entitled "New Moral Works" at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York in 1985.

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