Magazine article Artforum International

Gilbert & George. (Reviews: London)

Magazine article Artforum International

Gilbert & George. (Reviews: London)

Article excerpt

SERPENTINE GALLERY

Gilbert & George began as "living sculptures," confounding the seemingly self-evident distinction between artist and object. Even since their work took a primarily photographic form three decades ago, its central trope has remained their own emblematic presence. So one of the most striking aspects of "The Dirty Words Pictures," 1977, is how understated the presence of the artists' image is in comparison with the work that led up to and followed it--even on a quantitative level. In eighteen of the twenty-six works, each member of the partnership is present in just one out of the sixteen or twenty-five gridded panels of black-and-white imagery. Instead, the emphasis is on the world that surrounds them--the run-down, desperate world of punk-era London, with its broken windows and rubbish-strewn sidewalks, where strangled emotions are scrawled in the graffiti that runs across the top or bottom of each grid and provides its title, such as Bugger, Cunt, Fucked Up, or one that sounds like it should have been the tit le of a Sex Pistols song, Are You Angry or Are You Boring? The London depicted here is so richly multiracial that it's vaguely surprising not to find any racism expressed in the scrawls Gilbert & George recorded, but homophobia speaks its name loud and clear: This is a city in which Queer and Bent count as "dirty words." Amid all this the artists lurk as shadowy presences, looking pensive and troubled--they are not objects, as they had once presented themselves, but rather witnesses.

In 1972 Robert Pincus-Witten had distinguished Gilbert & George's brand of "Conceptual performance" from Vito Acconci's in terms of the former's appeal to the "experiences of the senses" over the "processes of the mind," tracing the English duo's work "back to the European Dadaistic experience. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.