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Jess Johnson: Worlds Within Worlds Ocula Conversation Jess Johnson: Worlds Within Worlds

Geometric patterns, anthropomorphic characters, architectural spatial environments, and relics of the ancient world appear throughout Jess Johnson's artworks.Johnson's solo art-ventures began in drawing, but her long-term collaborative relationship with animator Simon Ward brings her drawings to life in videos and virtual reality. The animator has...

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Lagos Biennial 2019: Stories from Africa’s most Populous City Ocula Report Lagos Biennial 2019: Stories from Africa’s most Populous City 15 Nov 2019 : Jareh Das for Ocula

Under the artistic direction of Folakunle Oshun, the second edition of the Lagos Biennial (26 October–23 November 2019) includes works by over 40 Lagos-based and international artists, architects, and collectives. Curated by architect Tosin Oshinowo, curator and producer Oyindamola Fakeye, and assistant curator of photography at the Art Institute...

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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough Ocula Insight | Video
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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough 15 October 2019

Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...

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Gilbert & George

United Kingdom

Gilbert & George Biography

Gilbert & George is an artist-duo consisting of Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore, known for their provocative and eccentric 'living sculptures', drawings, photographic montages, and prints. Often taking their personal lives and immediate surroundings as points of departure, the duo navigates themes such as sexuality, racial tension, violence, and religion.

Gilbert & George have been working together since they met as students at Central Saint Martins in London in 1967. The duo are well-known for declaring their lives as art and staging performances in which they presented themselves as 'living sculptures'. For their iconic work The Singing Sculpture (1969–1991), the pair dressed in business suits, painted their faces in bronze powder, and sang and danced to the Depression-era song Underneath the Arches, with a choreography reminiscent of the movements of androids or puppets. In video works from this period, the duo—clad again in business suits—performs mundane activities such as drinking their favourite brand of gin (Gordon's Makes Us Drunk, 1972) in an attempt to confuse the hierarchy between art and the banal.

The suit would become a defining characteristic of Gilbert & George, not only in their artworks, where they almost always appear suited (if wearing clothes), but also in everyday life, dressing themselves in suits for interviews, exhibitions, and even for mundane activities such as taking a walk. In a 2017 interview with Ocula Magazine, the duo noted that coming from poor backgrounds—Proesch from a family of shoemakers in the Dolomites, Italy, and Passmore raised by a single mother in Devon, United Kingdom—they found suits to be a pragmatic tool with which to cultivate an air of propriety.

In the early 1970s Gilbert & George produced large charcoal drawings mounted on paper and erected to create immersive environments. One notable example is The Tuileries (1974), an installation that consists of large-scale, wall-mounted charcoal drawings depicting the suit-clad artist duo in the woods at the Tuileries in Paris, then widely known as a meeting place for gay men. Four simple pieces of furniture covered in the same imagery are presented with the drawings, simulating a living room setting. As a work that offers insight into the artists' life as a homosexual couple not long after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the United Kingdom (1967), the drawings' overall melancholic tone hints at a sense of alienation. The furniture also summons the artists' personal lives into the work, having been modelled after their own chairs (which also appear in Gordon's Make Us Drunk), while simultaneously functioning as a device to transport the audience into the woods.

It was also in the 1970s that Gilbert & George began arranging black-and-white photographs into grid-like compositions. 'The Dirty Words Pictures' (1977), for example, consist of 26 such photographic assemblages; one artwork, titled Cunt Scum, contains 16 images in rows of four, black metal frames dividing each panel. The words 'cunt' and 'scum' are spelled in graffiti letters on top and bottom rows, between which are pictures of the artists, London policemen, vagrants, and vacant streets. Taken east of London in Spitalfields, where the artists have been living since the late 1960s, the images follow the changing faces of the duo's neighbourhood, which is an area historically known as a home to immigrants. 'The Dirty Words Pictures' were made at a time when Spitalfields' Bangladesh and Pakistani communities were targeted by white nationalists; by placing themselves on either side of 'scum' in Cunt Scum, the artists seem to be condemning the racial attacks while acknowledging their inseparable association with British whiteness.

Throughout the decades that followed, Gilbert & George have continued to engage with social issues while incorporating bright colours into their photographic assemblages. The 15 panels in Light Headed (1991), for example, depict the red and yellow heads of the artists raised on hands in red, orange, and pink against a horizontal seascape backdrop. Conceived in the time of the AIDS epidemic, works such as Light Headed expressed the artists' grief over losing their friends in part through the use of vivid red—reflective of the public's fear of blood in response to the epidemic—and frontal gaze.

Since the early 2000s Gilbert & George have been working digitally, but conceptually their personal lives remain at the core of their practice. In 2017, they presented a new body of mixed media prints in an exhibition titled The Beard Pictures at Lehmann Maupin in New York. Depicting themselves as bearded creatures with hair made from various and unlikely sources—wire mesh, flowers, tree leaves, and beer foam among others—the artists explored the beard as a symbol of a larger social structure.

In addition to their 2007 major survey exhibition at Tate Modern, London, titled Gilbert & George: Major Exhibition, the artistic duo has held exhibitions internationally, including Gilbert & George: THE MAJOR EXHIBITION, Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) (2018); The Beard Pictures and Their Fuckosophy, White Cube, London (2018); and The Early Years, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2015). The artists were nominated twice for the prestigious Turner Prize (1984, 1986) winning the second time, and presented their works in the Venice Biennale three times (1978, 2003, and 2005).

Biography by Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2019
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Featured Artworks

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FUCK OFF HIPSTERS by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeFUCK OFF HIPSTERS, 2016 Mixed media
302 x 444 cm
Lehmann Maupin
EMBEARD by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeEMBEARD, 2016 Mixed media
151 x 127 cm
Lehmann Maupin
VOTE BEARD by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeVOTE BEARD, 2016 Mixed media
190 x 226 cm
Lehmann Maupin
BLOODBEARD by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeBLOODBEARD, 2016 Mixed media
151 x 127 cm
Lehmann Maupin
BEARDCAMP by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeBEARDCAMP, 2016 Mixed media
190 x 302 cm
Lehmann Maupin
BEARDNEST by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeBEARDNEST, 2016 Mixed media
151 x 190 cm
Lehmann Maupin
BEARDORAGE by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeBEARDORAGE, 2016 Mixed media
226 x 317 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Beardmoor by Gilbert & George contemporary artwork
Gilbert & GeorgeBeardmoor, 2016 Mixed media
74.8 x 88.98 inches
Lehmann Maupin

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Gilbert & George, PARIDISICAL PICTURES at Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
Opening Soon
16 November 2019–25 January 2020 Gilbert & George PARIDISICAL PICTURES Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
Contemporary art exhibition, Gilbert & George, THE BEARD PICTURES at Lehmann Maupin, Seoul
Closed
10 January–16 March 2019 Gilbert & George THE BEARD PICTURES Lehmann Maupin, Seoul
Contemporary art exhibition, Gilbert & George, THE BEARD PICTURES at Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong
Closed
10 January–16 March 2019 Gilbert & George THE BEARD PICTURES Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Gilbert & George Ocula Conversation Gilbert & George Artists, United Kingdom

'Extraordinary!' is how George periodically punctuates his sentences, like a West Country boy still blinded by the city lights. Gilbert occasionally echoes him—his R's rolling off the Dolomites of his youth. Despite living in London's Spitalfields for half a century, no detail of urban life ceases to astound their collective curiosity. At...

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Bob Rennie Ocula Conversation Bob Rennie Collector

In Vancouver's Chinatown, an area wedged between the gleaming office towers of the city's affluent West End and the city’s poorest neighbourhood, Downtown Eastside, is a gallery showcasing work from one of the world’s leading private collections.Housed in a restored iteration of Chinatown’s oldest building, the...

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Dynamic Busan: More to see than just the sea Ocula Report Dynamic Busan: More to see than just the sea 31 May 2016 : Angela Suh for Ocula

The second largest city in South Korea, with a population of 3.6 million, Busan is a thriving metropolis situated at the south eastern end of the Korean peninsula. As a port city, Busan has a rich history of cultural exchange and is nationally acknowledged for its regional cuisine and diverse scenery. Reflecting its motto, 'Dynamic...

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Rachel Lehmann Ocula Conversation Rachel Lehmann Founding Partner of Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong

Rachel Lehmann is not only one half of the gallery powerhouse that is Lehmann Maupin, but she is also an international citizen of the world. Lehmann was born in Asmara, Ethiopia, and studied at the University of Fribourg in France. She worked at the legendary Sonnabend Gallery in New York, and was the proprietor of two contemporary galleries in...

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In Related Press

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An outsize dose of Gilbert & George Related Press An outsize dose of Gilbert & George The Art Newspaper : 14 August 2018

After a summer in the ancient Roman town of Arles, I can say that the French are very clear about their boundaries. When it's time for lunch, for example, those two and a half hours are sacred, and commerce be damned.

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'We say what we want' … Gilbert and George look back on 50 years of filth, fury and in-your-face art Related Press 'We say what we want' … Gilbert and George look back on 50 years of filth, fury and in-your-face art The Guardian : 15 November 2017

Half an hour into my interview with Gilbert and George, something unexpected happens: they disagree. Gilbert Prousch is talking about their urge to provoke and outrage. 'We see all the other artists as somehow meaningless,' says the 74-year-old, his Italian accent still strong. Gilbert grew up in a tiny village in the Dolomites and attended art...

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Gilbert & George bring battle of cultures to Berlin church Related Press Gilbert & George bring battle of cultures to Berlin church The Art Newspaper : 22 May 2017

The British art duo Gilbert & George were not initially convinced it was a good idea to show their work in a church. They are generally anti-religion. But, as George points out, 'faith in the church is out there' and to deny its existence would be futile.

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MoMA/MoMA PS1 Records releases 'The Thoughts of Gilbert & George' on vinyl Related Press MoMA/MoMA PS1 Records releases 'The Thoughts of Gilbert & George' on vinyl ARTNews : 8 August 2016

MoMA/MoMA PS1 Records—yes, the institutions have a record label—has released a special vinyl edition of The Thoughts of Gilbert & George, a recording that revisits their landmark work The Singing Sculpture, discussing the process of its creation as they sit in the studio. 

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In Video & Audio

Gilbert & George: The Great Exhibition | Introduction Related Video & Audio Gilbert & George: The Great Exhibition | Introduction Moderna Museet : 27 February 2019

During the preliminary work on Gilbert & George – The Great Exhibition at Moderna Museet, we visited the artists, who welcomed us into their home and studio on Fournier Street in London's East End, where they have lived and worked since the late 1960s.

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Gilbert & George in conversation with Tim Marlow Related Video & Audio Gilbert & George in conversation with Tim Marlow Royal Academy of Arts : 25 April 2017

In this event, Gilbert & George are joined by the RA's Artistic Director Tim Marlow to discuss their artistic practice and the fundamental issues of existence that they have always sought to confront in their art.

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Gilbert & George: The Early Years | ARTIST PROFILES Related Video & Audio Gilbert & George: The Early Years | ARTIST PROFILES The Museum of Modern Art : 19 September 2015

Hear Gilbert & George explain how and why they invented Postal Sculptures as young art-school graduates. Gilbert & George: The Early Years was on view at MoMA through September 27, 2015.

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Art Stage Singapore 2015 Related Video & Audio Art Stage Singapore 2015 Vernissage TV / 21 January 2015 : 22 January 2015

For the 5th time, Art Stage Singapore takes place at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore. The fair is known for its special focus on Southeast Asian art scenes (Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar). This year, more than 170 galleries from Asian and Western countries...

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