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Artists Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George Photo

Gilbert & George

British Sculptors, Photographers, Digital, Performance, and Conceptual Artists

Movements and Styles: Performance Art, Conceptual Art, Modern Photography, Pop Art, Digital Art

Born: Gilbert: September 17th, 1943 - Dolomites, Italy
           George: January 8th, 1942 - Devon, England

Gilbert & George Timeline

Quotes

"It's not a collaboration. . . We are two people, but one artist."
Gilbert & George
"We would say that we are the weirdest people we know. For many years we said that we were the unhappiest people we knew - and then we actually became unhappy, so we stopped saying it. More recently we stated 'we are the most disturbed people we know."
Gilbert & George
"It was our biggest invention. We had made ourselves the artwork."
Gilbert & George
"We have to seduce audiences with beautiful, crafted artworks and only then can they become slaves to our feelings."
Gilbert & George
"We don't want to be confrontational; we prefer to be subversive."
Gilbert & George
"Our art is the friendship formed between the viewer and the pictures. Each picture speaks of a 'particular view' which the viewer may consider in the light of its own life."
Gilbert & George

"We want our art to bring out the bigot from inside the liberal and conversely bring out the liberal from inside the bigot."

Synopsis

As one in life and art for 50 years, Gilbert & George make work that is often huge, extremely brash and noisy - it literally screams for your attention. They tackle tough subjects such as death, religion, power, the monarchy, patriotism, identity and sexuality, often combining these into one dazzling composite image. Chuck in a few swear words (and possibly a bodily fluid or two) and you have the essence of Gilbert & George.

Nowadays an elderly gay couple in their Seventies, Gilbert & George can often be seen in formal suits strolling around Spitalfields, the area of East London that they have made their home. This is not to say the artist duo has settled down for a quiet life. Happy to be known as confrontational, Gilbert & George continue to make work that defies the norm, often delighting in the response to their controversial images and provocative slogans.

Key Ideas

Critical to the understanding of Gilbert & George is the fact that these two individuals function as one artist. The two men began working together at art school ­in 1967- and have lived and worked together in a carefully restored house in East London ever since. Mostly identically dressed in formal tweed suits, Gilbert and George's genteel, ordered appearance and ascetic lifestyle is curiously at odds with their riotous and often garish works of art.
Gilbert & George are iconoclasts, attacking the beliefs that art holds most dear. They believe that art and life should be brought closer together and their 'living sculptures' were one early way of bridging this gap. Living and working together as an artist duo was a further way of creating this necessary merger - art becomes life and life becomes art. Their democratic approach encompasses the idea that it doesn't matter what your background is or where you come from, art is for all.
Their art is deliberately controversial and designed to offend as they believe that good taste is the scourge of modern life. While they are unafraid to tackle difficult subjects head on, they are sometimes reluctant to be pinned down about their own opinions and have made some conflicting statements about their views over the years. One consistent idea running through their work is the need to strive towards a world that is free from dogmatic religion and political correctness.
They employ shock tactics in order to get their message across. Swear words, scatological references and bodily fluids - all previously not considered to be part of art's lexicon - have been employed by Gilbert and George to calculating effect.
Their color is bold and at times eye-wateringly bright. Often when building digital compositions they use hallucinogenic colors in lurid combinations. Their whole aesthetic is a deliberate anti-aesthetic, designed to grab and goad the viewer in equal measure. In recent times they have made repeated use of large-scale, bold graphic style photo-based imagery, constructed through a digitally manipulated process.
As a gay couple who document themselves in their art, theirs is a celebration of otherness with early works showing them eating breakfast and getting drunk at home on gin. These early works have a gentler, poetic quality in keeping with the image they have cultivated of themselves as aesthetes and lovers of history.
The fact that they live in London is crucial to the appreciation of Gilbert & George's art. From early works in the 1970s that feature images of angry crowds and homelessness to later works that reveal a London divided along religious lines, they have used their art to chronicle Britain's capital city for over five decades.

Biography

Gilbert & George Photo

Childhood

Both men came from relatively modest backgrounds. Gilbert was born Gilbert Prousch in 1943, in the Dolomites - the Alpine region of northeastern Italy. He came from a family of shoemakers and his first artistic endeavors were in traditional Alpine wood carving. George was born George Passmore in 1942, in Plymouth, moving early on to a small town in Devon, England. George was raised by a single mother who worked as a waitress, and gave him elocution lessons. George's childhood was similar to his partner's, he remembers living without heat, bathroom or hot water. Often the school lunch would be his only real meal of the day. His family was quite religious, which led his older brother to become a vicar. By age 15, George had quit school. He was, however, already studying art at the renowned Dartington Hall School, while also working at a bookshop.

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Gilbert & George Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Gilbert & George
Interactive chart with Gilbert & George's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Francis BaconFrancis Bacon
Andy WarholAndy Warhol
William BlakeWilliam Blake
Oscar WildeOscar Wilde

Personal Contacts

Anthony CaroAnthony Caro
Philip King

Movements

Pop ArtPop Art
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Performance ArtPerformance Art

Influences on Artist
Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George
Years Worked: 1967 - present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

AndrewAndrew
Aziz + Cucher
Damien HirstDamien Hirst
EVA & ADELE

Personal Contacts

Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Andrew Heard
David Robilliard
Joshua Compston

Movements

Performance ArtPerformance Art
Queer Art
Abject Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Vitoria Hadba Groom

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Vitoria Hadba Groom
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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