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Art review: Gilbert & George the bombing with acts of provocation and love

In an often quoted letter, the French 1800-famous Gustave Flaubert about the importance of living a plain and modest life in order to be able to be wild and original in their work. No artists have as devoted made the motto into a lifestyle that the English konstnärsparet Gilbert & George. They have lived in the same house in London since 1968, dresses daily in the same tailor-made suits, eats the same dish at the same restaurant and avoid all the distractions in the form of film or television. To dagens nyheter's Georg Cederskog they said earlier in the week that they ”want to keep the brains free” from external influence.

It is of course a truth with modifications. In their work, have Gilbert & George, among other things, quoted headlines from the English tabloid press and småporriga personals, and owes much of its inspiration from the vimlande street life in the East End. Over the years, they have also become increasingly angrily political, in some of his works from 2010's attack and today's nationalism and fascism in unequivocal terms: ”Our grandparents did not vote in favour of the fascists – they shot them!”

Gilbert and George

came in contact with Gilbert & George's art was in the Guggenheim museum in New York in 1985. In the several years afterward, I walked around in a faded T-shirt that I bought at the show. Now, when I walk up in Stockholm by slush, to see their large retrospective at the museum of Modern art, I am concerned that they have aged poorly – was not their huge, colorful photo-montage is actually quite kitsch and flash decorative?

Well, it was the. But at the same time, they have a visual force and geometric compositions that makes them absolutely impossible to resist, much like the baroque altarpieces or stained-glass windows in gothic cathedrals. Both in his art and in interviews Gilbert & George, criticised the religion's judgmental approach to homosexuality, but their work is in its own way as direct and impactful as the religious propaganda – or, for that matter, Sovjeterans political murals and our own time storbildsannonser.

Gilbert and George

Is there any time when they really click in with the spirit of the times so it is in the 80's, when their work steps up in scale and intensity. Their assembly with the strong primary colors, and exposed the images of young men from that time could as well have been sitting on the album cover with the band as Frankie Goes to Hollywood or the Pet Shop Boys, or graced the covers of magazines such as The Face. It is a life-affirming, colorful art that really emphasizes the joyful in the word ”gay”.

from the 70's are often black and white and a bit smaller in format, which makes them more elegant, tight-lipped and introverted in the expression. With time they have got a historical, slightly nostalgic patina that makes them easy to like. But to my surprise, I like the ones closest to the sudden colorful and detailed works from the later time just as much. Aging, successful artists have often a tendency to not only repeat itself, but enhance its artistic specificity to the manic tics in ever larger formats. That Gilbert & George have not fallen into the trap I think may have been partly to do with the fact that they, according to his own statement, do all their work themselves, without an army of assistants.

In their works are both a logical continuity and a willingness to change in pace with current technological, political and aesthetic development. They have kept the geometric grid as the backbone for all their work (and makes them easier to transport and assemble), but at the same time filled it with ever new references, stories and associations. If the once upon a time, most were interested in turning the butt to the rigidity of the british middle class, are the ones who said the more political and funky in the day – instead of provoke with semen and bajskorvar they fill now their photos with the bombs and burqas.

Gilbert & George.

Or, for that matter, with the tacky quote like this: ”Lick dick. Masturbate a monk. Ream a reverend. Menstruate in the mosque.” All in accordance with the ten commandments, they formulated on their artistic activities, such as the fight against conformism, to make use of six and to give something back to the audience – with love.

so their works are works. Retrospektiven in the Modern is an example of the kind of instagramvänliga exhibitions of both museums and the general public are so fond of now-a-days – think Marina Abramovic, Yayoi Kusama, or Olafur Eliasson. Already the day after the opening of the exhibition is my feed full of Gilbert & Georges rumphål. But it is easy to understand why they arouse such attention.

This is, as Gilbert & George themselves usually highlight, an art for the people, on topics which concern us all – such as sex, death, money, religion, and politics. It is accessible, fun and understandable even for those who do not read art history, but not superficial or speculative. In an interview in the exhibition's comprehensive catalogue, explains: ”We wanted the art we did would reach out and be something, to mean something. To be something more than paintings that are sold and disappear. We wanted it to have a life in the world.” And they have succeeded with.

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