Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to the Gilbert and George retrospective at the de Young Museum here in San Francisco. They started out as performance artists, including themselves in their work as “living sculptures,” usually well groomed and well dressed in business suits. In addition to their live performances, they also made films such as Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk (basically, the pair getting drunk on Gordon’s gin).
Their most well-known works are their photo-montages, and these made up most of the exhibition. These are large scale works (measured in meters), with photos and graphics. It seems they always include themselves somewhere within the piece, along with both Christian and sexual symbolism. Some more basic, with black-and-white photos or subtle colors, such as England, 1980, while others, such as Death, from Death Hope Life Fear, are quite garish in their colors and graphics. You can see some examples here.
Although in most of the photo-montages it is easy to pick out the pair, in a couple it was more subtle, and one can play a kind of “Where’s Waldo” game. Indeed, one of my favorites was a wall of London street names, I could not find them anywhere in it, but I know they must be there somewhere.
I actually heard about Gilbert and George first in 2004. I had begun a collaborative art project and my partner gave be a book to read about artistic collaborations, focusing on conceptual art and performance art in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was an era and style of art I often overlooked, and since then I’ve been more open to conceptual art, especially those based on words and text, but also in those that focus on the body. Needless to say, that collaborative art project never came to fruition.
The building in which the de Young Museum resides is itself a work of art. I have several pictures from past visits that will be subject of future “Wordless Wednesdays.” The architecture is characterized by grids of holes in the walls, some of which one can see through. There is also a tower with an observation deck, offering views of Golden Gate Park and the city. On this particular visit, one could see the fog rolling in from the west over the park and the outer districts:
The fog represented the end to the heatwave we experienced two weeks ago in San Francisco.