Notes on Gilbert & George: London Pictures @White Cube

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Gilbert & George steal the London headlines and create world beating art.



The debonair pair systematically helped themselves to 3,712 posters of various daily and weekly London newspapers from newsstands across North and East London during a period spanning 6 years and then assiduously set about sorting and sifting them according to common key words to create a world beating show which is now on at White Cube galleries in London and one in Hong Kong, as part of a 13-gallery world tour.

I am a long term fan of of Gilbert & George and since I first heard them discussing this mammoth “LONDON PICTURES” project with Mark Lawson on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row earlier in March I knew this was something that I just had to see while I was in London recently.

Whittled down from 3,712 to 292, of which White Cube galleries show just 72 “LONDON PICTURES” leaves a startling and permanent impression of the harsh realities of urban life, stark and graphic. With key words of bright blood red jumping out from black and white pages such as . BURGLAR, MACHETE, HOOKER, SHOOT OUT – SHOOTING and SHOT DEAD the posters are arranged in panels in grid like fashion and superimposed over backdrop images of computer manipulated photo’s of Gilbert & George, looking out at the viewer – sinister and spectral like in the background – in eerie shades of flesh pink and orange.

The bottom right hand panel on each features the highlighted word, with a picture of the Queen’s Head taken from various coins throughout her reign, cleverly implying a Royal Endorsement, along with the words “A LONDON PICTURE / IT’S WRITTEN ALL OVER THEM” and their signature.

Although this could be the headlines from any major city in the world the fact that this is exhibition is a document of London sees G&G being embraced as the contemporary equivalent to Dickens and quite rightly too as “LONDON PICTURES” carries some weight as a historical document. Their insight into the day to day existence of urban life in the City in which they have lived and worked together since 1967 is spread out before us in a blunt and brutal reflection on the tragic side of London life and the sensationalist reporting of the news makers as it reverberates across the walls at White Cube galleries.

Gilbert & George - London Pictures - White Cube Hoxton Square

Gilbert & George - London Pictures - White Cube Hoxton Square

The accompanying 320+ page book that accompanies the show is a must have, featuring as it does all 292 works and a comprehensive essay by Michael Bracewell, I was lucky to acquire a signed copy thanks to the wonderful and helpful staff at Bermondsey.

A fabulous show in what is fast becoming my favourite London Gallery.

“A London Picture / It’s written all over them”.

Images copyright White Cube

At Bermondsey and Mason’s Yard until May 12, Hong Kong until May 5 and Hoxton Square until April 14

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