Gilbert & George, the fathers of "provocative" art
Málaga is the first European city to host the show
The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga presents Gilbert & George's first major exhibition in Spain after a ten-year absence. Jack Freak Pictures, the duo's most extensive and ambitious series to date, will travel to six European countries, starting with Spain, where Málaga will be the first city to present this impressive selection. Race, religion, sexuality and criticism of the British establishment are the core themes that this new exhibition explores, whilst the dominant elements are the red, white and blue, the colours of the Union Jack. The exhibition is supported by the British Council.
In their latest production, Jack Freak Pictures, Gilbert & George, a duo of artists whose appearance is that of two serious, conservative gentlemen, have chosen to focus on the flag of the United Kingdom, the Union Jack, symbol of Britain and of the British Empire. Jack Freak Pictures features 62 works that question social values through ironic provocation and tongue-in-cheek scandalousness, whilst the critical spotlight also falls on the link between patriotic feeling and fanaticism and oppression.
CAC Málaga presents the largest series of works that Gilbert & George have produced to date. This is a major show in both form and substance, one deeply loaded with meaning and significance. Psychologically acute and visually violent, Jack Freak Pictures is Gilbert & George's most iconic creation. Parallel to the exhibition, the film The World of Gilbert & George, written and directed by the artists themselves, who also star in it, will be shown in Space 5, as will a documentary entitled Tim Marlow with Gilbert & George.
G&G form part of their own work; they are veritable "human sculptures". Their serious, genteel appearance belies the irreverent nature of their iconography. They use themselves as the medium for their work, which explores the world outside the doorstep of their Fournier Street home in London's East End. The series Jack Freak Pictures takes its inspiration from a London street guide (Hanbury Street Dance, 2008), from the trees in the artists' back yard (It Shall Be Written, 2008), from medals symbolising such feelings as pride and patriotism (Bleeding Medals, 2008)… These are large works reminiscent of Gothic stained-glass windows or huge kaleidoscopes featuring geometric motifs.
The work of these artists explores human existence, delving into such themes as sexuality, race, AIDS, death, faith and religion. Take, for example, Christian England (2008). In it, we see Christ on the cross, his genitals covered by the Union Jack. He is flanked by the artists, themselves festooned in the ensign.
However, Gilbert & George do not feel that their attitude is one of intolerance towards the Church; in their view, they are merely expressing an opinion, and this is their way of fighting against the rules established by both the art world and society in general.
Gilbert & George began to work together whilst they were still students at the legendary St Martins School of Art in London. Since then, they have carved out one of the most extraordinary, prolific and acclaimed careers in contemporary British art. So much so, that they were the first living British artists to be honoured with a show at the Tate Modern.
Although they are often described as Pop artists, the truth is that their work is difficult to label. They have used a wide range of techniques over the years as they have gradually built up their body of work, which can well be described as a compendium of the politically incorrect: from painted faces and singing sculptures to a completely digitised system in which only the final piece takes physical form. This is a characteristic grid or panelled system in which the artists themselves are always represented. Moreover, their works bear clear, direct, striking titles that reflect both the artists' concerns and their rebellious spirit (Jesus Jack, 2008).
In the opinion of Fernando Francés, director of the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, "Gilbert & George's attitude and stance towards today's world is one of the most complex and engaged positions with regard to reality - from a singular, differing perspective - that can be found in the art world today.
They are, perhaps, the most realistic artists in the world, though their personal commitment may have led the public to focus more on superficial appearance than on the underlying importance. The discomfort their work causes is the direct result of their non-conformist position, which enables them to pull no punches in denouncing whatever they consider hypocritical about today's society".
G&G have produced a special edition of their work Death Cult, 2009 for CAC Málaga. Just one hundred copies of this series will be on sale at the art centre itself and on the website: www.cacmalaga.org.
Jack Freak Pictures provides a unique opportunity to enjoy works by some of the most well-established and acclaimed artists on the international scene. By hosting exhibitions of this nature, CAC Málaga pursues its goal of bringing the most outstanding contemporary artistic tendencies to the general public. There is no doubt that Gilbert & George represent the avant-garde, and this show further helps to consolidate the city of Málaga's leading position on the international art scene.