British artists Gilbert & George open an exhibition of “London Pictures” a series completed in 2011 at the MKM from March 20, 2013. Taking as their theme the countless newsagent posters collected by the artists themselves over a period of six years, the artists compile a detailed inventory of quotidian human behaviour, which they then submit to their hallmark humanistic gaze, and in so doing, furnish their own perspective on the psycho-social condition of our Western societies. What emerges is an extensive series of images from which the MKM is, for the first time, showcasing 70 individual pictures and affording visitors the opportunity to intensively explore this new phase from the oeuvre of Gilbert & George.
In their “London Pictures” Gilbert & George have collated the newspaper posters, which, not only in London, but across England, garnish the sales stands of the newspaper dealers. Their explicit allusions to the most titillating, violent and bizarre stories of the day are designed to entice potential customers to buy the newspapers. These simple statement of facts promise tales of love and sex, violence and death, wealth and power – themes, which have fascinated humanity since time immemorial, and which expose our endless appetite for sensation, disaster and excess. Gilbert & George have taken 3712 images of these advertising posters, processed the material, arranged it according to themes and fashioned it into 292 carefully-created pictures. Not only are the artists documenting a commonly-used device within the marketing strategies of the Western press, they are also exploring its impact on both the individual and society as a whole, and applying artistic means to articulate their own response to, and perception of, this social phenomenon.
The artists of course feature in their pictures: in the background as a pair of quizzical, piercing eyes or as a ubiquitous, immaculately besuited presence, appearing “(…) as though the artists were psychic manifestations of the city itself, its sense of place and history.” (Michael Bracewell, author of the catalogue). Yet beyond focussing on the city of London itself, Gilbert & George also cast themselves directly as integral constituents of our society’s media landscape and its psychic condition. Their unrelenting gaze interrogates not only the message of the posters, but is trained at the observer who also becomes an essential part of each and every picture.
Gilbert & George are seeking to portray the “grandeur, mystery and drama” of our Western world. From competitions to find the cutest child to gruesome tales of murder and mayhem – the whole gamut of human experience is represented here and exercises an equally ineluctable fascination on readers in Germany: For as the artists themselves remark, the “London Pictures” and “London Problems” could just as easily be “Duisburg Pictures” and “Duisburg Problems”.
March 20 to June 30, 2013
MKM Küppersmühle Museum of Modern Art Innenhafen Philosophenweg 55 D – 47051 Duisburg, Germany
Main Photo: © Artlyst 2013