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Friday, February 15, 2008

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What looks from afar like cathedral windows, is filled with images of all things sinful: a symbol of faith formed by human excrement, frontal and rear male nudity, enlarged microscope images of spit and spunk, and newspaper clippings warning about a sin of voting. At the de Young opening of "Gilbert and George"-- a Tate Modern London exhibition in association with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) Diane Wilsey, FAMSF President of the Board of Trustees said, “I know there is a lot of people in this city who wish they were doing it, but we are.” The artists’ subject matter is more or less precisely reflected in the title of one of their largest works from 1994, “Shitty Naked Human World.” Each element of the named world is being studied in relation to the artists themselves, posing as archetypal human beings in the sea of lies surrounding “Death Hope Life Fear” from a 1984 title of theirs. Looking like a pair of perfect English gentlemen in their gray-checkered suits and ties, and conversing in their impeccable British, Gilbert and George make their rebellion against all things oppressive even more striking. Using images of their own bodies (and bodily fluids) in their studio-produced photography, the artists send out a powerful message of inquisitive vulnerability constantly threatened by dogmas, superstitions, prejudices, and intolerance, imposed upon humanity by various religions, censorship, and other prohibitive institutions. Their “Bomb” from a 2006 series of images, which followed the notorious London bombings, is a monument to the victims of religious intolerance. Although Gilbert and George insist that human beings are driven by sex, money, race, and religion, and love has very little to do with real life, one of their most poetic images, “Winter Flowers” from 1982 contradicts this statement, as well as their whole history of living and working together from the moment they first met on the steps of St. Martin’s School of Art in London back in 1967. “George was the only one who could understand my English,” quipped Gilbert (originally from Italy). “He still is the only one who understands me,” he added with a smile worth a thousand words. “This is the largest show of Gilbert and George in 25 years,” said John Buchanan Jr., Director of FAMSF, placing them “among the most influential artists today.” The artists admittedly “blindfolded” themselves against influences and never study the works of others, concentrating primarily on creating their own. "It's not fun making art," said Gilbert. "Nothing is easy." "You just have to do it to say what you must say," added George. “Gilbert and George” is on display through May 18, before traveling to the Milwaukee Art Museum in June and to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in October. The de Young Museum is located in Golden Gate Park, SF. For information, call 415-750-3600, or visit Photo by Emma Krasov. Gilbert and George at the opening of their show.


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