Gilbert & George: Pompous Pandering
By Sharon Stewart
Art does not imitate life, nor life art with Gilbert & George, two fellows whose creative worlds have come to live as one. To them, life is art. And this life began in 1967 when they were students at St. Martin's School of Art in London. They chose to be a living sculpture and have remained so as subject center in their mail art, films, poetry, paintings, drawings, bookworks and photo-pieces. Sixty seven of the latter are presented in, Gilbert & George, their first American retrospective, shown this summer at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, and organized by Brenda Richardson of the Baltimore Museum.
These photo-pieces are each comprised of a network of 24x20 black framed photo segments making a whole image allegory with a semblance to stained glass cathedral windows. I say allegory because initially their photo-pieces were groupings of individual photographs compounding a story told. Through an evolution involving color and theme has the allegory returned. But that is jumping a bit ahead and one must have an overview of the life art of Gilbert & George.
Their life (for they never talk about their art) is delved from intense introspection and transposed through sexuality, militarism, religion, alcoholism, mental mania, social strappings, floral omnipresence, and youth- don't forget the youth lest it leave.
In this exhibition we initially find Gilbert & George introverted to their home world during 1974-1977. "Dusty Corners" and “Dead Boards” abound in black and white tales. Comes worry, comes red color slathings to "Bad Thoughts," "Bloody Life," "Mental,” and "Red Morning Death.”
Turning out of the immediate mind and home in the late 1970s to the "Mad" street scum's scratchings provided graffiti piece motifs in "Queer." "Bent," and Prostitute Poof" And it is again red, the color connotation of Commie rage and blood that rejoins "Are You Angry Or Are You Boring? " and "Communism."
Enter the Eighties intellectual yellow yell. Gilbert & George propose themselves to be quite high beings and will wax so while we remain willing recipients. They are now "Waiting,'' arms afront clenched and crossed across twin tweed stares. All about their titles abounds anguish in '80. Trapped. Dying Youth and a Hellish Misery Fighter. Living in Madness, are Exhausted in Intellectual Depression. Be it the 'Power and Glory" of Brixton blue collar boy ‘Angels' and a half-yellow war "Hero" to bring back a transmogrified yellow Gilbert and red George like the red "Rose Hole" gaping above us but below them. Finally life art fills. "Four Feelings" for "Four Knights bring on four colors. And with these colors come photogram template masks of "Coloured Faith," "Lions," “ Monsters,” "Coloured Black.' "Rude," and "Speaking Youth” in decade dawning primitive poses. And in 1982 it's “Deatho Knocko" a Dies Irae so bring out the living colors of magenta, violet, turquoise, orange, green, of course yellow, blue, and red and we might as well have some gold leaf since art being has bid us so well. Let s watch the boys yell and scream and tumble thrust through crotch crosses and Icarus' disgraced descent. All blooms in the flower shower skies of "Coloured Loves" and "Winter Flowers." Through stamen stares come ' Naked Beauty," "Naked Love. ' and "Youth Faith" We'll lick our "Lickers" to that faith in "Seven Heroes" so young and peaked. Why, we'll wait and watch the wall of them finish their Uri-night" floating face tree pee. We're ready with faint "Forgive-ness" though forgetting not "Fruit Fear God" for we rightly remember that this remains art religion. "Life Without End." Amen. Amen.
What do you think we should do today, Gilbert?
Go for another round, George?
That sounds splendid.
How about two more on the art world?
They may want women this time, but I do not believe I can oblige.
And I'm sure to get depressed and bloody sotted again and again. And I rather like screaming and yelling and dancing with you so we must just as well continue living our life's life.
We'll write and prepare for presentation another film and continue, too, not to talk about our art,