GILBERT & GEORGE   28 I 04 I 02 - 23 I 06 I 02      

With a great deal of humor and relish, the art duo Gilbert & George has been breaking taboos and provoking the international art public for over thirty years. 

See WHAT OUR ART MEANS [Comments by the artists]

    Our Spunk, 1997, Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Paris        

Gilbert, who was born in 1943 in the Italian Dolomites, studied at Wolkenstein School of Art (South Tyrol, Italy), Hallein School of Art (Austria), and the Munich Academy of Art. George, who was born in 1942 in Devon, England, studied at Darlington Hall College of Art in Devon and then at Oxford School of Art. They met on the Sculpture Course at London's St. Martin's School of Art in 1967, and since then they have been living and working together in London.

Gilbert & George started their work together with what one might call performance art by declaring themselves to be sculptures. From 1969 to 1977, they made public appearances as "Living Sculptures." Through their robot-like movements or absolute motionlessness they problematized identity as something vacuous and stereotypical. Attired in a proper British suit, shirt, and tie and with their movements, gestures, and language in consonance, Gilbert & George documented themselves doing everyday rituals, declaring such banal activities as walking, drinking, and smoking to be works of art. They single-mindedly continued this staging of their own persons in everyday life, so that to this day their ritualized public appearances have made their life itself appear to be a perfectly managed work of art.

    MM, 2000, Private Collection          

Parallel to their live performances in which they staged themselves, Gilbert and George applied their extended understanding of art to other media. "The Charcoal on Paper Sculptures" (1970-74) depict the duo in huge charcoal drawings on single sheets of paper that have been assembled together. From 1969 to 1975, they sent "Postal Sculptures" and produced "Magazine Sculptures," which combine and collage postcards, photographs, and excerpts from art magazines and journals. Since 1971 they have been producing photographic works which treat contemporary social issues and in which the staging of their own persons is still of central importance. In works that are marked by sexuality, violence, and street scenes, both artists stylize themselves as heroes of people who are marginalized by public awareness. awareness.

      Gilbert & George in front of Kunsthaus Bregenz, Februar 2002,
  Photo: Rudolf Sagmeister

Models by the artists,
Photo: Rudolf Sagmeister

Since the end of the 1970s they have been combining their photographs into increasingly larger collages and producing monumental and colorfully bold picture compositions that are characterized by a strict conceptual regularity and that aesthetically refer to youth and pop culture.

From 1980 onwards, the topics of body and sexuality have dominated the work of Gilbert & George. In addition to individual sexuality, the oversized tableaux, whose narrative structure can be read at multiple levels, treat such taboos as excrements and sperm and stylize these taboos into picture elements. In their latest work, Gilbert & George are more open than ever about their understanding of the body both as a sounding-board for the soul and the intellect and as something that cannot be duped or deceived.

Since the end of the 1960s the work of Gilbert & George has been shown at important exhibitions worldwide, including the documenta in Kassel (1972, 1977, 1982) and the Biennale in Venice (1978).

On all three exhibition floors and in the foyer, the Kunsthaus Bregenz is showing a selection of 26 large-format works from the years 1989-2001. This is the most comprehensive exhibition of the work of Gilbert & George ever held in Austria and comprises works from the series "The Cosmological Pictures" (1989), "New Democratic Pictures" (1991), "The Naked Shit Pictures" (1994), "The Fundamental Pictures" (1996), "New Testamental Pictures" (1997), "The Rudimentary Pictures" (1998), "Zig-Zag Pictures" (2000), and "New Horny Pictures" (2001). On every floor, visitors are surrounded by photographic tableaux-of up to more than 15 meters in width and 3 meters in height-that fill the walls and directly confront the visitor with statements on social and emotional realities which are highly topical.

The hardcover exhibition catalogue contains numerous color illustrations of all of the works exhibited in Bregenz, a text by Eckhard Schneider, statements by Gilbert & George, and a photo biography (Kunsthaus Bregenz. Ed. Eckhard Schneider. Cologne: Walther König, 2002. pp. 130).

For the duration of the exhibition, the lake-front billboards of the Kunsthaus Bregenz are modeled according to a design by Gilbert & George.