25
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘Gilbert & George – London Pictures’ at MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst, Duisburg

Exhibition dates: 20th March 20 – 30th June 2013

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I used to think that Gilbert & George’s work was inventive and relevant, that it had something important to say about contemporary culture. These days I am not so sure. It seems all to easy to rip headlines from the tabloid newspapers. Who cares about dog, death, money, school, cute kids, etc… as commented on by these pulp editions. Gilbert & George seem to have become a pastiche of themselves, cartoon cut-outs hovering in contextless backgrounds with staring eyes and gormless faces. “I am contextless, unhappily spinning in the vacuum of my own indolence,” the work seems to be saying. We already know that we are becoming a society of shortened, fractured words and sentences on mobile phones and in newspaper headlines, of absence/presence where people absent themselves from their surroundings while on mobile devices, we all know that already… I don’t think it takes mediocre art to point it out. It’s not very insightful (as Gilbert & George used to be).

I think they need a good boot up the bum to get them back to making work that takes the viewer somewhere, that actually challenges people’s belief systems, not some pulp driven comment on contemporary culture. Take a look at their early work if you don’t believe what I am saying: look at how alive the pictures were, how much vitality and energy they had, and how challenging the work was!

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Many thankx to the Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Gilbert & George. 'Lick' 1977

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Gilbert & George
Lick
1977

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1977-queer

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Gilbert & George
Queer
1977

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Gilbert & George. 'Dog' 2011

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Gilbert & George
Dog
2011
© Gilbert & George / Courtesy of the Artist and White Cube Gallery

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Gilbert & George. 'Money' 2011

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Gilbert & George
Money
2011
© Gilbert & George

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Gilbert & George. 'School Straight' 2011

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Gilbert & George
School Straight
2011
© Gilbert & George / Courtesy of the Artist and White Cube Gallery

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Gilbert & George. 'Death' 2011

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Gilbert & George
Death
2011
© Gilbert & George

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“Completed in 2011, “London Pictures” is the title of the cycle created by the London-based artists Gilbert & George, to which the eponymous exhibition in the MKM from March 20, 2013, is dedicated. Taking as their theme the countless newsagent posters collected by the artists themselves over a period of six years, the artists compile a detailed inventory of quotidian human behaviour, which they then submit to their hallmark humanistic gaze, and in so doing, furnish their own perspective on the psycho-social condition of our Western societies. What emerges is an extensive series of images from which the MKM is, for the first time, showcasing 70 individual pictures and affording visitors the opportunity to intensively explore this new phase from the oeuvre of Gilbert & George.

In their “London Pictures” Gilbert & George have collated the newspaper posters, which, not only in London, but across England, garnish the sales stands of the newspaper dealers. Their explicit allusions to the most titillating, violent and bizarre stories of the day are designed to entice potential customers to buy the newspapers. These simple statements of facts promise tales of love and sex, violence and death, wealth and power -themes, which have fascinated humanity since time immemorial, and which expose our endless appetite for sensation, disaster and excess. Gilbert & George have taken 3712 images of these advertising posters, processed the material, arranged it according to themes and fashioned it into 292 carefully-created pictures. Not only are the artists documenting a commonly-used device within the marketing strategies of the Western press, they are also exploring its impact on both the individual and society as a whole, and applying artistic means to articulate their own response to, and perception of, this social phenomenon. “The “London Pictures” should not in the first instance be read as a critique of the media, but perhaps as a critique of ourselves”, explains MKM Director Walter Smerling, adding that: “Gilbert & George borrow the language of the media, place it in a different context and in so doing transform these newspapers posters into a new entity vested with an entirely new content. The careful collation and arrangement of hundreds of headlines (…) forges a platform for reflection which casts the spotlight on to our own complicity, intrigues and problems of existence.”

“The artists of course feature in their pictures: in the background as a pair of quizzical, piercing eyes or as a ubiquitous, immaculately besuited presence, appearing” (…) “as though the artists were psychic manifestations of the city itself, its sense of place and history. The “London Pictures” comprise both a directory of quotidian urban human behavior – revealing and shocking and violent, in all its sluggish or volatile momentum – and as such the city’s moral portrait: an unflinching audit of modern western society’s relationship to itself, stripped of rhetoric or intellectual disguise.” (Michael Bracewell, author of the catalogue). Yet beyond focussing on the city of London itself, Gilbert & George also cast themselves directly as integral constituents of our society’s media landscape and its psychic condition. Their unrelenting gaze interrogates not only the message of the posters, but is trained at the observer who also becomes an essential part of each and every picture.

Gilbert & George are seeking to portray the “grandeur, mystery and drama” of our Western world. From competitions to find the cutest child to gruesome tales of murder and mayhem -the whole gamut of human experience is represented here and exercises an equally ineluctable fascination on readers in Germany: For as the artists themselves remark, the “London Pictures” and “London Problems” could just as easily be “Duisburg Pictures” and “Duisburg Problems”.

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Biography

Gilbert (born in 1943 in St. Martin in Thurn, Italy) studied at the Wolkenstein School of Art in South Tyrol, the Hallein School of Art in Austria, and the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, before attending St. Martin’s School of Art in London. There, in 1967, he met George (born in 1942 in Plymouth, UK), who had previously been a student at Dartington Hall College of Art and Oxford Art School. During the 1960s, Gilbert & George expanded the concept of sculpture by making themselves the materials for their art, as Living Sculptures. They declared everyday activities to be art, and provoked opposition by using faeces, urine and sperm as principal motifs in their picture series. They were awarded the 1986 Turner Prize, exhibited in the British Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale, and has held exhibitions in venues ranging from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1971 and 1996) to Guggenheim Museum, New York (1985), Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris (1997) and London’s Tate Modern (2007). Other major public exhibitions have been mounted in Russia (1990) and China (1993).”

Press release from the MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst website

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Gilbert & George. 'Kills' 2011

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Gilbert & George
Kills
2011
© Gilbert & George

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Gilbert & George. 'Woman' 2011

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Gilbert & George
Woman
2011
© Gilbert & George

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Gilbert & George. 'Cute Kids' 2011

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Gilbert & George
Cute Kids
2011
© Gilbert & George

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Gilbert & George. 'Stabbings' 2011

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Gilbert & George
Stabbings
2011
© Gilbert & George

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Gilbert & George. 'Sex Pest' 2011

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Gilbert & George
Sex Pest
2011
151 x 127 cm
© Gilbert & George / Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg, Paris

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The British artists George Passmore (L) and Gilbert Prousch (R) pass in front of one of their art work 'London Pictures'

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The British artists George Passmore (L) and Gilbert Prousch (R) pass in front of one of their art work ‘London Pictures’ as they arrive for a press conference at the museum Kueppersmuehle in Duisburg, western Germany, on March 14, 2013. AFP PHOTO / CAROLINE SEIDEL

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MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst
Philosophenweg 55, 47051 Duisburg
Germany
T: +49 (0)203 30 19 48 -10/-11

Opening Hours:
Wed 2.00 pm – 6.00 pm
Thu – Sun 11.00 am – 6.00 pm
Bank Holidays 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

MKM Museum Küppersmühle für Moderne Kunst website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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