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Naked (from the series: Shitty Naked Human World)
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jtucker's picture

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Borderline nudity, screaming faces, and penis shaped piles of poo; it's a typical day for this dynamic duo.

I should start this by telling you that if this piece offends your refined sensibilities or perhaps just straight up disgusts you, there really is no need to look further into the careers of Gilbert & George, for obscene work like this painting is par for the course in the good ol’ world of G&G.

Gilbert & George just feel like one contradiction after the other. There is no denying that these two are debonair gentlemen to a T. They always dress in fresh-pressed suits, which has landed them the title of 50 best dressed over 50 by The Guardian. They are complete neat freaks and cannot work if anything in their home is even the slightest bit disheveled. They vote Conservative, yet their art tells a different story. Who knows what goes down behind closed doors, but it must include some sort of raunchy debauchery for their artwork seems to be the antithesis of the artists themselves.

But why? Why such a gross, unnerving aesthetic and why do people love them so much for it? Here is my best attempt to break it down for you: the main premise is that they do not make art about art, they make art about life and low and behold, life sometimes is just scary and sh*tty. Secondly, you will always find Gilbert & George front and center in their work, as they do not view themselves as two artists but rather as one piece of living sculpture - they are their artwork. Finally, their work is meant to push buttons, plain and simple. As Gilbert & George explained, “We want our art to: bring out the Bigot from inside the Liberal and conversely to bring out the Liberal from inside the Bigot.” I suppose if that is your goal you are not going to achieve it by painting blithe landscapes.

It is also important to realize that the British art scene circa the '60s when Gilbert & George were launching their careers was a much different place. Color and emotion were simply out of style. At the time, Britain was on the cusp of the Swinging Sixties (where hedonism, color, and fun reigned supreme), and it was artists like Gilbert & George that helped push the British arts in such a fun and raucous direction. Hence to this day, many view this duo as the grandfathers of the contemporary British art movement.

This work in particular belongs to a series known as Shitty Naked Human World. They created this series as an exploration of faith, mankind, and nature...through poop. In this work, the poo forms a totem pole, which is a nod to Pagan religions. The poo in the other three works in the series behaves in notably different fashions, thus exploring humanity through a variety of lenses. For Gilbert & George, nothing is more human than poo, or so they claim. I’m not even going to try to psychoanalyze that one.

Sources

Sources

  1. Van Praagh, Anna. “Gilbert and George: ‘Margaret Thatcher did a lot for art’.” The Telegraph. July 5, 2009. Accessed September 29, 2017. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/5743120/Gilbert-and-Geor...
  2. “Gilbert & George: Naked (Uit de serie: Shitty Naked Human World).” Accessed September 29, 2017. http://www.stedelijk.nl/en/artwork/4441-naked-uit-de-serie-shitty-naked-...
  3. Cartner-Morley, Jess. “The 50 best-dressed over 50.” The Guardian. March 29, 2013. Accessed September 29, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/gallery/2013/mar/29/50-best-dressed-...
  4. “Gilbert & George: Introduction.” Gilbert & George. Accessed September 29, 2017. http://www.gilbertandgeorge.co.uk/introduction
  5. “Gilbert & George Discuss Shitty Naked Human World.” The Guardian. Accessed September 29, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/arts/audio/2007/feb/15/gilbert..george.discu...