Gilbert & George

ColinHumphrey:, culture, exhibition, london, whitecube, masons yard, paint, mixed media, gilbert and georgeColinHumphrey:, culture, exhibition, london, whitecube, masons yard, paint, mixed media, gilbert and george

Whitecube (Mason’s Yd): 9th April – 12th May 2012 Free, Photo from gallery website.

News cuttings

A collection of medium sized mixed media pictures with evocative headlines and imagery. The exhibition is a series which references the artists themselves.

The content

On the surface the exhibition is about what? Let us first understand that much of the duo’s art references themselves and the area in which they live the East End of London. OK, is this self portraiture, landscape, social commentary or what? It appears to be an amalgam borrowing facets of each particular mode. The work appears to play with the conventions of the tabloid newspaper as a communications format, this much is salient from the outset, could this possibly be part of a larger narrative?

The medium

Marshall McLuhan, exponent of the term, ‘the medium is the message’ would perhaps balk at first sight of this exhibition with its seemingly negative appeal. After viewing this latest collection of artwork by the nefarious duo a question remains, why this medium and what’s the message? There appears to be little or no variation in this ‘process’ rather than ‘aesthetics’ driven work. Each piece has a headline, a semantic anchor to contextualise the visual and textual material. If one could look at each headline and the network of words surrounding them as having a certain strength, like a signal. It ensues that each headline talks to repeated transmissions, in this way the exhibition may critique the repetition and generic quality of headlines in general.

Signal intensity and scale

An interesting question concerning contemporary art is that of scale, the refrain ‘bigger is better’ does for many what bleaching agents and plastic surgeons did for the Jacksons. Gilbert and George often employ large scale for example in the SonofaGod exhibition 2006 at the Tate Modern. Broadly speaking the role of a conceptual artist is that of an enquirer, one who undergoes some sort of investigation and relates that back through the work. The work may be the result or even fragments of the investigation. Going back to the previous paragraph, if we elaborate on the signal like nature of ideas then one can view the increased scale of certain artworks as a form of pseudo amplification. A question remains that at what point does amplification become just noise?

Critical derivations

The possible readings that may be inferred from this show could be listed as, (1) The sensationalism of headlines, (2) A decline of news values (3) Loss of objectivity in news stories and (4) neither of the above this is pure conceptual self interested art which cares little of anything outside itself. Without enforcing any interpretation on the work it appears as if reading 4 is the dominant one. Although readings 1, 2 and 3 may be inferred, broadly speaking the work seems too self reflexive to care as such about any wider social or political objectives. The work good or bad however does make you think about what one digests via media transmissions.


A body of recent work which makes reference to the news, conventions of media information whilst at the same time exacting an interesting self portraiture. Some may find the work offensive.

written by: Colin Humphrey

Secured By miniOrange