Art Files: Gilbert and George

Bornday: September 11, 1943 + January 8, 1942
Birthplace: San Martin, Italy + Devon, England
Medium: Mixed Media (performance art + photo-montages)
Alma Mater: 
St Martins School of Art 
Relevant Themes: Absurdity, sexuality, sex, anatomy

My sister recently introduced me to this wonderfully eccentric duo and I’ve been hooked ever since. Our apartment is currently decked out with a series of post cards from one of their many large scale photo-montages Cosmological Pictures (1993). The saturated bright colors and symmetrical arrangements characteristic of Gilbert and George almost resembles stained glass windows. I am a fan of their seemingly haphazard juxtapositions of flowers and iconic Christian symbols with fecal matter and bodily fluids. The fearlessness and sense of humor woven into the work speaks loudly and perfectly compliments their quirky personalities. To no surprise, they’ve made noise in the international art scene by provoking audiences to question conventions and taboos. Here are a few favorites: 

DEATH (1984)


FATES (2005)

Gilbert: We don’t look at other artists
George: We don’t socialize with other artists
Gilbert: We haven’t been to a gallery in 30 years
George: We don’t belong to the gallery-going class, you see
Gilbert: Why would I want to join a long line of middle-class twits? We want to see the world as it is, naked. We left the house the other day at 6.25am, and there in the street was a dead, flattened rat, and a crow feasting from it. That’s an amazing image, isn’t it? I shall remember it forever (an excerpt from “The Observer“, 2007)

Undeniably charismatic and unexpectedly grounded, Gilbert and George bring a novel earnestness and sincerity to the world that is often overlooked by the hawkish purveyors of “Art” and “Culture”. Indeed, life would be a bit duller without them. I leave you all with a few works from The Naked Shit Pictures for the strong-stomached:

NAKED (1994)

WORLD (1994)


“Gilbert & George had included images of excrement in their art as far back as the 1983 picture SHITTED. In the mid-1990s, however, they embarked on THE NAKED SHIT PICTURES, in which they appear naked alongside giant turds, combining two taboos that seemed guaranteed to offend viewers. While their confrontational aspect is undeniable, these pictures enabled the artists to question the way society shies away from this most universal of materials. ‘Fundamentally, there’s something religious about the fact that we’re made of shit’, they have said. ‘We consist of the stuff. It’s our nourishment, it belongs to us, we’re part of it, and we show this in a positive light’.

At the same time, the pictures explore ideas of mortality in its rawest form. ‘It’s like our pictures of cemeteries, all that dead matter. Shit is also the end of a life, a left over’, they explain. The nakedness of the artists is deliberately exposed, an image of humanity reduced to its essentials, without shelter, status or dignity. As the critic David Sylvester commented, while many twentieth-century artists tried to break out of the prettifying conventions of depicting the body as ‘nude’, only Gilbert & George truly succeeded in portraying it as ‘naked’.” — Tate Modern

Light up your life with a little Gilbert and George. 


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