Anthony d'Offay Gallery Ltd., London, England
Purchased by Akron Art Museum, 1994
2012 - 2013: Haslinger galleries, 8/22/12 - 6/17/13, Akron Art Museum
2007: "Prized Images: The Knight Purchase Award for Photographic Media 1991-2006" 7/17/07 - 10/14/07, Akron Art Museum
2001 - 2002: "British Invasion: Selections from the Collection, McDowell Gallery" 9/13/01 - 2/11/02, Akron Art Museum
1997 - 1998: "75th Anniversary Celebration of the Collection" 9/25/97 - 2/1/98, Akron Art Museum
1996: "Akron's Own Rings: Five Passions in World Art" 6/22/96 - 8/11/96, Akron Art Museum
1994-1995: "Grids and Serial Imagery" 10/22/94 - 4/23/95, Akron Art Museum
1993: "Gilbert & George: China Exhibition"
9/3/93 - 10/3/93, National Art Gallery, Peking, China
10/21/93 - 11/11/93, The Art Museum, Shanghai, China
1992: "Gilbert & George: New Democratic Pictures" 9/6/92 - 10/25/92, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark
21 panels, 33 1/4 x 28"
signed, titled and dated LR
Gilbert & George
Collection of the Akron Art Museum
The British duo known as Gilbert & George have addressed compelling personal and social issues—from private traumas like drunkenness and lust to overarching concerns such as religious fundamentalism, racism, and death. Unifying these diverse issues is the artists' visible and domineering presence in the works: sometimes they appear as victims or witnesses, sometimes as bystanders and perpetrators. Their bold expressions of lamentation, glee, or reckless abandon, which are simultaneously amusing and disturbing, are among the more morally perplexing images of our time.
Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore met while attending St. Martin's School of Art in London. Since 1967 they have lived and worked together in Spitalfields, a working-class London neighborhood. Adopting the name "Gilbert & George," the two men were among the first of a number of artists who began to work as duos or teams in the 1960s. Though best known for their large-scale "photo-pieces," such as Attacked, Gilbert & George have also engaged in live performances of a hauntingly robotic nature and produced drawings, films, and works on paper.
By 1980 they had developed a closely guarded technique of dying black-and-white photographs with brilliant hues. George has explained: "We are making a language out of colors. It's not exactly like life. Life's colors are mixed up. Ours are separated."1 From the start, they regarded the photograph as something purposefully constructed, not an image that captures existing reality. Key figures in the development of postmodern photography, they embraced a carefully manipulated, artificial world characterized by its large scale, strong color, and dramatic images related to advertising and the popular media. The gaudy beauty of their work sometimes camouflages its deeper ambiguities and consciously exploitative depiction of alcoholism, race, and homoerotic lust.
From their earliest efforts, Gilbert & George have combined multiple images or used gridlike structures to divide a single image. This structure is sometimes superimposed over outrageous subjects, joining opposing worlds of order and chaos. Grids, which appear in much twentieth-century abstraction, are more typically used in cool, calculated compositions, as in Sol LeWitt's sculpture pp. 180 – 81). Gilbert & George transform the grid into an emotion-packed structure, like bars on a cell.
Attacked dramatizes multiple threats—psychological assault, urban danger, and viral contagion. It belongs to a group of works first exhibited together as New Democratic Pictures, which depict sardonic fantasies of intimidation, confusion, death, and escape. Gilbert & George told one interviewer that in Attacked they were under assault from manhole covers that act like “space invaders” or “stealth fighter-bombers.” In their minds, the pair said, “everybody is hiding something” and “some aspect of their life is under attack.”2 The artists stick out their tongues to be rude and defiant, but the gesture also suggests a visit to the doctor’s office, childishness, and sexual aggression. The double entendre of the manhole covers and the tapestry of golden droplets inevitably allude to sex and bodily fluids. Attacked recalls an earlier series that dealt with the subject of AIDS through riveting images of blood.
"We want our Art to speak across the barriers of knowledge directly to People about their Life and not about their knowledge of art," say the artists.3 And so they do, employing beauty and artfulness not to comfort but to evoke the spirit of contemporary life. It is not far-fetched to regard Gilbert & George as our century's Dante and Virgil, for these dandies in pink suits chart the depths of heaven and hell. At the same time, they survey the beauty, pathos, and danger of the streets.
- Mitchell D. Kahan, 2001
1. Daniel Farson, "Making an Exhibition of Themselves," Sunday Telegraph (London), April 29, 1990.
2. Quoted in “Boot, Blood Heads, Tears, Seen, Eight, Attacked: From an Interview with Keith Pointing 1995,” first published in the poster book Gilbert & George (London: Brockhampton, 1996); reprinted in Violette and Obrist, 208.
3. Quoted in Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971–1985 (New York: Rizzoli International, 1986), vii.
Aarhus Kunstmuseum. Gilbert & George—New Democratic Pictures. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus Kunstmuseum, 1992.
Jahn, Wolf. The Art of Gilbert & George or An Aesthetic of Existence. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1989.
Richardson, Brenda. Gilbert & George. Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art, 1984.
Violette, Robert, and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, eds. The Words of Gilbert & George: With Portraits of the Artists from 1968 to 1997. London: Violette Editions, 1997.