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Gilbert and George at the White Cube 13 July, 2009

Posted by HIM in mydeco guest blogger.

Rocking up at Gilbert and George’s much anticipated opening at the White Cube last week, I had visions of the Spitalfields odd couple shouting a new art world order from Jay Jopling’s Sacred spires – prescribing a searing vision of 21st Century society and its follies.

‘bombs’ (2006) by Gilbert & George © Jay Jopling and The White Cube

‘bombs’ (2006) by Gilbert & George © Jay Jopling and The White Cube

At least that’s what I had been led to expect from the hyperbole surrounding Jack Freak Pictures – apparently the ‘most iconic, philosophically astute and visually violent work that Gilbert & George have ever created’. What I was confronted with however, was an off-key disappointment.

With an artistic agenda visible from space, it seems to me that Gilbert and George have struggled to live up to their hype – a point made startlingly evident at the Hoxton Square opening last Thursday.

Spurred on by a few free bottles of Asahi, I skipped expectantly into the church-like space on the packed out East London Palazzo and came confronted by the Gilbert and George we’ve come to know…and, well, know.

Now don’t get me wrong, what G&G do, they do fantastically well – but the Jack Freak Pictures offer nothing new to the oeuvre. Perhaps the subject matter was a little darker, and the alien facial montages of the pair a little more menacing, but in reality the most striking thing about the show was the clarity of print that the pair had managed to achieve on such a large scale.

That said, there is something beguiling about Gilbert and George’s self-referential pictorial stories – however repetitive they may be. With a style which is unarguably their own, and a back story that reads like a ghoulish East London fairy tale, Gilbert and George have shrouded themselves in an enticing artistic mythology.

Producing the same old work over and over again, and selling it for the same, sky-high prices over and over again however, no doubt does wonders for Jay Jopling’s dreams of White Cube world takeover, (and I’m sure it has bought G&G a fair few spare mustard-coloured suits), but in terms of artistic merit, the prints for which the pair are so famed, seem to have breathed their last.

That’s not to say that nothing can be salvaged from the wreckage. Despite the tried and tested formula, there is boundless physical energy caught within the G&G brand of Technicolor, and a sculptural potential that they would do well to tap. But, let’s face it – one trick ponies just don’t take well to other things, it makes them nauseous.



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