Gilbert & George Signed Prints & Originals
Biography for Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George, like Rogers and Hammerstein, Morecambe and Wise and Laurel and Hardy are a pair of artistic geniuses that have become household names. With their slogan 'Art for All' these impeccably-dressed; suited and booted gentleman are instantly recognisable, not just to the art establishment but to the general public at large. Their success and popularity culminating in the largest retrospective of any artist to be held at Tate Modern in 2007.
Winners of the Turner Prize, representers of Britain at the Venice Biennale; Gilbert and George have been rightly awarded for their groundbreaking body of work. Beginning back in 1969 when, while still at art school, they made 'The Singing Sculpture'. For this 'performance' Gilbert and George covered their heads and hands in multi-coloured metalised powders and stood on a table, sometimes for a day at a time, singing and dancing along to a recording of Flanagan and Allen's well known 1940's war time song 'Underneath the Arches'. They regard themselves to this day as "living sculpture" and refuse to disassociate their art from their everyday lives, gathering all their thoughts, feelings and imagery from their local surroundings of London's East End, according to George (the taller, bespectacled one of the duo) "Nothing happens in the world that doesn't happen in the East End."
Gilbert and George's immensely powerful imagery captures an astonishing range of emotions and themes, from rural idylls to gritty images of a decaying London; from fantastical brightly-coloured panoramas to raw examinations of humanity stripped bare; from sex advertisements to religious fundamentalism. Often shocking with picture titles such as; 'Bent Shit Cunt' and one of their recent shows called 'The Naked Shit Pictures' Gilbert and George do have their critics. However, they are unperturbed and live by their own set of commandments, the first being; "Thou shalt fight conformism" and the tenth being "Thou shalt not know exactly what thou dost, but thou shalt do it."
Gilbert and George are best known for their large scale photo works, known as 'The Pictures', their trademark format beginning the large grid, a square or rectangular picture broken into sections that become a unified field of signs and images. And although the subject matter might make for uncomfortable viewing, Gilbert and George's immensely powerful pieces are always fastidiously conceived and beautifully crafted, as Michael Bracewell wrote of Gilbert and George's 2006 show 'SONOFAGOD PICTURES' "lustrous, ornate, pictorially complex, vividly coloured, yet suffused with tenebrous solemnity, they have all of the dramatic visual impact which one might expect to find in neo-Gothic medievalism - in Victorian reclamations of Celtic or Moorish symbolism, for example, regally bejewelled and portentous with romantic mysticism. At the same time, however, the SONOFAGOD PICTURES possess a darkly graven strangeness, at once archaic and ultra-modern, in which their temper no less than their signage appears deeply contemporary, ritualistic and disturbed."
Gilbert and George's early works were created mostly in black and white and so too their first set of signed Lithograph prints which were published in 1971: 'The Limericks' are a series of nine prints each depicting a sketch of Gilbert and George and a limerick. The prints illustrate that all art is 'living sculpture' and the limerick is added as 'Singing Sculpture'. Each of the signed lithograph prints deals with a specific theme, such as shyness, worldliness or manliness. These piece are known as 'Postal Sculptures' as they were sent to various friends, galleries and collectors. Included in the set of prints are 'The Limericks - Idiot Ambition' signed Gilbert and George. And 'The Limericks - Artist's Culture' signed Gilbert and George. Also executed in 1971 was the signed Lithograph print 'A Touch of Blossom', signed lower right in red ink Gilbert and George.
Following the move from 'Singing Sculptures' to 'Postal Sculptures' came 'Written Sculptures' and 1973 saw the publication of the print series 'Pink Elephants' a series of eight monochrome note cards, each image referring to hallucinations experienced while heavily under the influence of alcohol. 'Pink Elephants 1', signed in red ink Gilbert and George. 'Pink Elephants 2', signed in red ink Gilbert and George. 'Pink Elephants 3', signed in red ink Gilbert and George. 'Pink Elephants 4', signed in red ink Gilbert and George. 'Pink Elephants 5', signed in red ink Gilbert and George. 'Pink Elephants 6', signed in red ink Gilbert and George. 'Pink Elephants 7', signed in red ink Gilbert and George. 'Pink Elephants 8', signed in red ink Gilbert and George.
1973 also saw the birth of 'Reclining Drunk'. The sculpture 'Reclining Drunk' is a gorgeously tactile, glistening emerald green melting bottle of Gordons Gin, made of glass, inscribed with etched Coat of Arms, the initials G G and glowingly presented in a Perspex box. This highly collectable Gilbert and George piece is an edition size of 200.
In the later years Gilbert and George moved on to colour and what glorious colour! Their work has been compared to the exquisite stained glass windows of William Morris and Sir Edward Burne-Jones, "their coloured images are very much like Victorian stained glass panels brought dazzling up to date. And, as Burne-Jones made women anaemic and angels antiseptic, so Gilbert and George have the ability to make shit look good." In reference to Gilbert and George's Brixton show of "The Naked Shit Pictures", the journalist went on to say "Most of the pictures on show will feature one or more of the artists very own turds in gleaming colour."
"Gleaming colour" best describes the signed limited edition prints: 'Death, Hope, Life, Fear', edition size 30, comprising of four prints (quadripartite picture), signed Gilbert and George. 'Tag Day', edition size 35, signed Gilbert and George. 'Poster Dance', edition size 35, signed Gilbert and George. 'Nettle Dance', edition size 35, signed Gilbert and George. 'South Africa', edition size 35, signed Gilbert and George. And 'Death after Life', edition size of 100, signed bottom middle in blue ink Gilbert and George.
Gilbert and George have used the techniques of photographic manipulation for many years to create their powerful pictures, exploring the whole gamut of human experience. Using the most state of the art digital media they created, in 2007, the signed limited edition print: 'Fruiters', edition size of 100, signed Gilbert and George. In this striking piece they present a comically menacing image of themselves, both masked and decorated with stylised images of fruit from the common place London plane tree.
Other vivid and dramatic prints to emerge from Gilbert and George in the last few years are: 'Perv Duo Desecrate Tate Modern: Pictures', edition size 250, signed Gilbert and George. This limited edition work was released at the opening of 'Gilbert & George: Major Exhibition' at Tate Modern in 2007. With Gilbert and George's familiar form of wit, and self deprecating humour 'Perv Duo Desecrate Tate Modern: Pictures' makes use of the Evening Standard advertising placard. This motif forms the basis of their 'The Bomb Pictures', which was exhibited for the first time in the Tate exhibition. 'Ban Religion', edition size of 100, signed Gilbert and George, was released to coincided with the opening of their series of work 'JACK FREAK PICTURES'. 'Ban Religion' reflects Gilbert and George's stance on religion, emblazing the contentious message unashamedly, as characteristically their art so often does. 'Deth Kult', edition size of 100, signed Gilbert and George, was released in 2009 as part of the 'JACK FREAK PICTURES' Exhibition when it moved to Spain. Like many of the works in the JACK FREAK series, Gilbert & George incorporate the tagged, grafittied streets of their East End neighbourhood. 'Deth Kult' also makes reference to the 1980s punk rock band. Another dramatic print to be published as part of the 'JACK FREAK PICTURES' show was: 'Intercrural Love', edition of 100, signed Gilbert and George, this graphic image is actually Gilbert and George's bodies and using digital media distorts, inverts and enhances them, to create compelling shapes for the viewer to dissect again or to view as a new whole, as if coupled badges or kaleidoscopic flowers in bloom.
The 'JACK' in 'JACK FREAK PICTURES' refers to the Jack in Union Jack as George says; "when the first picture was finished, it reminded us of the Union Flag. Then flags entered the series with a vengeance. You can do whatever you like with the Union Flag - it still looks recognizable. And 'FREAK' as Gilbert says;"Well, yesterday we took a bus - and every human being we saw had an element of freakishness. Now we always see freaks, and nothing else." George: "Generally speaking, "freak" just means "unusual" - on the news, they always refer to a "freak storm" or a "freak wave". It means extreme." Gilbert: "Different."
Although Gilbert and George still divide the critics, 'The art of Gilbert and George is a method of making everything mean what it usually does only with grander, more vivid force.' They are resolutely beyond current fashion, and in their own words; "The function of art is to bring about new understanding, progress and advancement." And this they have certainly achieved.
* Approximate price based on current exchange rates