THE BEARD PICTURES exemplifies Gilbert & George’s commitment to “Living Sculpture,” or an inseparable association between the world and their art. The pictures respond to the shifting demographics of our time, befitting the artists’ proclamation of “Art for All.” Viewers should not mistake this mandate for a democratic approach to art as a pleasantry. Taboos, fetishes, political upheaval, and the functions of the human body are some of the great unifiers of humanity, and Gilbert & George have long offered scathing and unsanitized views. The gallery will host a reception on Thursday, January 10, from 6 to 8 PM in Hong Kong, and 5-7 PM in Seoul.
The British novelist Michael Bracewell elaborates on the sentiment of these latest works:
THE BEARD PICTURES are violent, eerie, grotesque, lurid, and crazed. They show a dream-like world of paranoia and destruction and madness ... a world bereft of reason, in which negotiation no longer exists. Gilbert & George take their places within THE BEARD PICTURES as intense, red, staring, empty-headed, and sinister versions of themselves … THE BEARD PICTURES turn history into a mad parade, their mood shape-shifting between that of science fiction, lucid dreaming, and Victorian caricature ... In this chaos of trashed aesthetics and reversed values, all has become symbol and surface: mad symbols, presented with deadly seriousness.
The massive pictures depict the artists in symbolic beards made from beer foam, flowers, and barbed wire, interspersed with imagery of street signs, graffiti, and ginkgo trees of our world. With this, the artists offer an allegorical take on the transformation and upheaval of the urban environment, and more broadly, our contemporary era. Few traits of appearance or dress offer such ripe interpretation for both the spiritual and the secular, the past and present, as the beard; Bracewell summarizes its iconography “as both mask and meaning: a sign of the times.”
About the artists
Gilbert & George (b. 1943, San Martin de Tor, Italy & 1942, Plymouth, United Kingdom) received their BFAs at the Munich Academy of Art, Germany, and Oxford Art School, United Kingdom, respectively, and received their MFAs from Saint Martin’s School of Art in London, where they met in 1967. Recent solo exhibitions of their work have been organized at Helsinki Art Museum, Finland (2018); LUMA Arles, France (2018); The Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest, Hungary (2017); Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania, Australia (2016); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015); Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (2014); Deichtorhallen, Hamburg, Germany (2011); Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Poland (2011); Kröller-Müller Museum, the Netherlands (2010); the de Young, San Francisco (2008), Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI (2008), Brooklyn Museum, New York (2008); and Tate Modern, London (2007). Select group exhibitions featuring their work include The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2017, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2017); Take Me (I’m Yours), Jewish Museum, New York (2016); A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now, ICA London (2013); Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2012); ARTandPRESS, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2012); The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture 1839 to today, Kunsthaus Zurich (2011); BP British Art Displays 1500-2009, Tate Britain, London (2009); and Passports: Great Early Buys from the British Council Collection, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2009). Their work is in numerous international public and private collections, including Art Institute of Chicago; Cleveland Museum of Art; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland; Istanbul Modern, Turkey; Magasin III, Stockholm, Sweden; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Netherlands; and Tate Gallery, London.
Gilbert & George have received honorary doctorates of art from Plymouth University, United Kingdom (2013); Open University, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom (2012); University of East London (2010); and London Metropolitan University (2008). They have received numerous awards, including the South Bank Award, London, and The Lorenzo il Magnifico Lifetime Achievement Award, Florence, both in 2007; the Special International Award, Los Angeles, in 1989, and most notably, the Turner Prize, London, in 1986.