Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are pleased to announce British artist duo Gilbert & George’s first exhibition at the Berlin gallery. On view are twenty-five large-scale works from the artists’ 'THE PARADISICAL PICTURES' (2019) series.
The pictures show Gilbert & George wandering through paradisiacal natural worlds filled with mostly expressionistically hued fruits, flowers, leaves, and trees. Each one is a cosmos in itself; together they form a spectacular vision of paradise that is at once lush and fantastic, with hallucinatory and psychedelic elements.
Some works find the artists symbiotically merging with the natural world. BEDWETTING and CURL feature their disembodied eyes, noses, and mouths emerging ghost-like from layers of leaves to gaze piercingly at the viewer. In other pictures, they move—sometimes awkwardly dance—through sumptuous landscapes, as in DATE STONES or TENDER, for example. DATE STONE HEADS and DATE HEADS show Gilbert & George becoming part of the plant kingdom themselves, here in the form of dates and date stones bearing their facial features. The choice of fruit is significant: While dates are associated with sensuality and are said to boost both libido and sexual desire, date stones have a look reminiscent of human excrement and feces. The artist duo has already addressed such socially taboo aspects of being human in their NAKED SHIT PICTURES (1994).
Common to all the pictures is the motif of blossoming in nature—a joyful event further emphasised by the bright colours. Yet a closer look reveals that the flowers have faded; leaves glow in autumnal hues or lie withered on the ground; fruits have dried; the duo’s poses exude exhaustion and fatigue. Autumnal scenes of nature can be interpreted as a metaphor for the autumn of life, an eternal cycle of passing and reawakening. The works also allude to the process of ageing, to the confrontation with one’s own transience—a theme all the more omnipresent and palpable in the wake of a deadly global pandemic.
Completed in 2019, Gilbert & George’s studies of the relationship between humans and nature take on new relevance and significance in the current context. The artists present a vision of paradise that is ultimately transcendental—a representation of how we might situate ourselves in the modern world, but also how we can change for the better.
Gilbert & George (*1943, San Martin de Tor; *1942, Plymouth) met as students at St Martin’s School of Art in London in 1967 and have collaborated ever since. Recent solo exhibitions include those at Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2021); Kunsthalle Zurich (2020); Fondation Louis-Vuitton, Paris; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm (both 2019); Helsinki Art Museum (2018); Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest (2017); Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania (2016); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015); Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (2014); Deichtorhallen Hamburg (2011); Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk (2011); Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (2010); De Young Museum, San Francisco (2008); Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin (2008); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2008); and Tate Modern, London (2007). Gilbert & George represented Great Britain at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005. Group exhibitions include those at The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2020); The Warehouse, Dallas (2017); The Jewish Museum, New York (2016); The Drawing Center, New York (2016); Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz (2014); Nottingham Contemporary (2014); Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2013); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2013); Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha (2012); Gropius Bau, Berlin (2012); Hong Kong Heritage Museum (2011); and Kunsthaus Zurich (2011).
Press release courtesy Sprüth Magers.