Selected works of controversial British artists Gilbert & George feature in an exclusive exhibition at the Ben Brown Fine Arts Gallery in London from 6th October to 6th November 2020. Curated from an exceptional private collection, this series of artworks are displayed together for the first time and are must-see.
The pair met at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London in 1967 and have since become global icons in the art world. Their early works focused on Living Sculptures and they often inserted themselves into their art. Well known for their large-scale artwork in the early 1970s, collectively known as “The Pictures”, their early black and white images were arranged into grid-like structures and by 1974 they introduced the colour red into their pictures. In the 1980s, their work became more stylised and with graphic visuals featuring lots of colour. The pair also embraced digital technology and adopted it into their work.
“Art and life became one, and we were the messengers of a new vision. At that moment that we decided we are art and life, every conversation with people became art, and still is.” – Gilbert & George
Renowned for their anti-elitist stance in art, they believe in “Art for All”, and have notoriously explored issues of social injustice, politics, sex, religion, racism, patriotism and mortality. Furthermore, the pair has fully integrated all aspects of their own lives into their art and have even described themselves as ‘living sculptures’. Before meeting in London, Gilbert studied at Wolkenstein School of Art, South Tyrol, Italy; Hallein School of Art, Austria; and Munich Academy of Art, Germany; and George studied at Dartington Hall College of Art, Devon, UK, and the Oxford School of Art, UK.
A Toast, 1973, is another rare and iconic early artwork, a zig-zag arrangement of slightly blurred black and white images of Gilbert and George drinking, as part of a group of pictures meant to evoke inebriation and explore the role of alcohol in the lives of artists. George commented on this series – “We could see that all the other artists were drinking, but during the day they painted a nice grey square with a yellow line down the side. We thought that was completely fake. Why shouldn’t all of life come into your art? The artists drink, but they do sober pictures. So we did drinking sculptures, true to life.”
Cock, 1977, is one of 26 of their infamous Dirty Words Pictures, which juxtaposed obscene words found in street graffiti with images of urban unrest and inequity This was part of an exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries in 2002. Many works from the series are held in prestigious museum collections such as Cunt Scum in Tate, London; Angry in Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Are You Angry Or Are You Boring? in Stedelijk Van Abbesmuseum, Eindhoven; Cunt in Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Fuck in Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg; Queer in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam and Suck in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The exhibition also includes four “Postcard Art” pictures, a body of work they started in the 1970s and revisited again in 2009, in which Gilbert & George gathered postcards in kaleidoscopic grid arrangements, grouped by both subject matter and formal qualities. Most of the postcards used dated from before or shortly after the Great War of 1914 –18. Mother and Black Mare, both 1981, come from a series of images of the Royal Family arranged in the formation of a cross, while London Town and State Coach, both 2009, are comprised of postcards, flyers and telephone box cards arranged in a rectangle with a single card in the centre, referencing a sexual symbol utilized by theosophist C. W. Leadbetter.
This is a rare opportunity to view an eclectic series of artworks from Gilbert & George, created between the 1970s and 2009.
All images (C) Gilbert & George, courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts, London.