Gilbert & George - Gilbert Prousch (San Martino, Dolomites, Italy, 1943) and George Passmore, (Devon, United Kingdom, 1942), are one of the most celebrated pairs of artists in the UK. After meeting in 1967 at St Martins College of Art in London they proclaim that their work together is an anti-elitist conception of art, underpinned by the belief that it is “art for all”, based on what they call “art and life”. The approach and declarations of Gilbert & George challenge enigmatic art, and its darkness and obsession with form.
In the beginning the pair are erroneously classified as performance due to their presentations of “Living Sculptures”, a label that has stuck throughout their career as they blur the distinctions between art and life. Gilbert & George's oeuvre has presented all manner of sculptures: object sculptures, conference sculptures, magazine sculptures, postcard sculptures, book sculptures, etc. “Our life is one big sculpture” they declare as they deliberately ignore the common divide between sculpture, painting, drawing, writing and other mediums, obscuring the boundaries between the artist and their work. Their photo sculptures are enormous mural-like pieces, and the photographs, as if joining to form a puzzle, are arranged in panelled rows that are framed on a grid.
This exhibit, Gilbert & George's first individual exhibition in Spain held in the Palacio de Velázquez, spans from their first series of London parks in black and white from 1971 up until the bright and multi-coloured New Moral Works (1985). The collection bears witness to the regular presence of both artists in their own work. In New decorative Works and Modern rubbish (1973) the living sculptures find themselves in a world of inebriation, and, groggy from drinking, Inca pisco and Human Bondage (1974) sway and distort the image, breaking it into small pieces or making two images in one. These are what they call “Drinking Pieces” (1972-74).
The pair work in black and white until Cherry Blossom (1974), when red starts to impose itself on the works, for instance in Bloody Life, and is subsequently combined with yellow at the beginning of the Eighties during a brief period in which they incorporate a far wider range of intense colours that, depending on their use, represent symbolic, atmospheric and emotional aspects.
During the Eighties feelings become as important as thoughtsin their work; the artists interest in eastern religions can be seen in Bhuna (1980), representing a key moment as other people appear. Life without End (1982), a stain-glass window piece made up of one hundred and fifty four panels and almost ten metres wide, features a scene with a mass of people interspersed with religious symbolism. Yet their most provocative stance can be clearly seen in other works such as Sperm eaters and Shit faith from 1982 and Friendship pissing (1983).
Colour clearly creates texture via a new technique applied after Death Life Hope Fear (1984), one of the pair's most iconic pieces displayed in the Palacio de Velázquez in Madrid.
CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain de Bordeaux (May 9 - September 7, 1986); Kunsthalle, Basel (September 28 - November 9, 1986); Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels (November 21, 1986 - January 11, 1987); Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich (April 15 - June 14, 1987); Hayward Gallery, London (July 9 - September 26, 1987)