Gilbert and George – London Pictures @ White Cube

20 March 2012

‎10 minutes from the office is White Cube’s massive new Bermondsey gallery, big and open and white, divided between a North Gallery containing about 7 works by fashionable Chinese artists, and in the South Gallery 20 or so massive works by Gilbert & George, the ‘London Pictures’.

They’ve taken newspaper hoardings from Evening Standard stands for the last 5 or 6 years and grouped them by key word (sex, money, banker, murder) and then created enormous pictures made up of 4, 12, 20, 40 of the hoarding images bolted together and superimposed over photomontages of their own faces and London streets.

The immediate impression is of sheer size, then the flaring red of the shock-horror keywords create a sense of media hysteria, an oppressive sense of being shouted and blared at. Slowly, though, I noticed the way the backgrounds are cunningly varied to give visual variety. And then the way the image of the queen (85), taken from coins, at the bottom right of each picture, is different, from a youthful young woman to the old lady of today – stamping the images with ironical authority? a punky juxtaposition of the street and the Palace? or a touching comment on the passage of time? Or all three?

Whereas Hockney (74) is utterly rural, and Gilbert & George (68 and 70) are utterly urban, they’ve both created enormous works of art by joining together lots of distinct, smaller sections. A modern look. Something to do with the ubiquity of screens, maybe?

Gilbert and George – London Pictures

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