LONDON, ENGLAND.- The first major retrospective in the UK for more than twenty-five years of the art of Gilbert & George opens at Tate Modern on Thursday 15 February. The exhibition occupies both the east and west wings on Level 4 at the gallery and part of the concourse and café area, making it the largest exhibition ever to be mounted of their art. Comprising more than 200 pictures made since 1971, the exhibition, designed by the artists, traces their stylistic and emotional development to the present day. The exhibition will travel extensively in Europe and America.
Rarely seen charcoal on paper sculptures, including The Nature of Our Looking 1970, and pieces such as Dusty Corners 1975 and Cherry Blossom 1976, feature alongside pictures from subsequent decades, including large-scale pictures such as Life Without End 1982 and Named 2001, which is over 15 metres long. All of the 45 groups of pictures are represented, including major quadripartite pictures such as Death Hope Life Fear 1984, Shitty Naked Human World 1994, and Nineteen Ninety Nine 1999. Gilbert & George have also created an important new group of six pictures for the exhibition entitled Six Bomb Pictures, comprising a 14 metre triptych entitled Bomb and five other pictures: Bombs; Bomber; Bombers; Bombing; and Terror. The artists have described this group as their most chilling to date. The exhibition also includes postcard pieces, films, books and documentation.
Gilbert & George (born 1943 & 1942 respectively) began working together as students at St.Martins School of Art in 1967. Since the early 1970s they have created pictures in series or groups of black and white, then coloured, pictures. They began to introduce bold colours in the early 1980s and subsequent groups usually include one or more pictures realised on a monumental scale. Each shares common motifs and conceptual and formal elements. Among the themes that recur are religion, sexuality, race and identity, what it is to live in a metropolis and the tensions and desires that can arise from the proximity of disparate cultural traditions and values.
Gilbert & George are renowned for their revolutionary expansion of the concept of sculpture which they shifted from an object-based practice to one that incorporates the entirety of lived experience, including presenting themselves as living sculptures. They have since worked in a range of media conventionally regarded as non-sculptural or even non-artistic.Their maxim Art For All is firmly rooted in the urban and social fabric of Londons East End where they have lived and worked for forty years and remains a dominant inspiration in their art.
The exhibition is being curated by Jan Debbaut, formerly Director of Tate Collections, and Ben Borthwick, Assistant Curator, Tate. It will travel to Haus der Kunst, Munich (June to September 2007), Castello di Rivoli, Turin (October to January 2008), De Young Museum, San Francisco (February to May 2008), MilwaukeeArt Museum (June to September 2008) and Brooklyn Museum of Art (October to January 2009). It will be accompanied by The Complete Pictures, a comprehensive, illustrated, double-volume featuring 1479 plates with an in-depth analysis of their oeuvre by Rudi Fuchs. There will also be a 200 page exhibition catalogue which will feature essays by Jan Debbaut, Ben Borthwick, novelist and cultural commentator Michael Bracewell and art historian Marco Livingstone and this will reproduce all the works in the exhibition.