Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George Gilbert: b. 1943, born Dolomites, Italy; George: b. 1942, Devon, UK
11 feet 15/16 inches x 36 feet 3/8 inches (363 x 1111 cm)
Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa
Gilbert & George
Since 1965, when Gilbert and George met and began working and living together, they have merged their identities so completely that one never thinks of one without the other; no surnames, individual biographies, or separate bodies of work hinder their unique twinship. Furthermore, they make no distinction between their life and their art; they are their own works of art. In 1967 they began public appearances in the guise of "living sculptures": identically attired in proper business suits, their faces and hands covered with a metallic patina, they paraded themselves at cultural events (they later toured to museums and galleries) playing the game of robotized bronze statues that mirrored the spectacle of art in popular culture. The range of their art has grown to include photography, drawing, painting, written texts, film, and performance. Their presence is clearly felt in their work, which often includes self-portraits.
Waking (1984) is populated by the youths and boys that represent for Gilbert & George the primal life forces—sexuality and religiosity—at their most formative and explosive stages. Treating their subjects as malleable material, the artists directed their models in studio-shooting sessions, casting them as heroes in carefully composed narratives. Gilbert & George occupy the image's center stage. Around them the assembled cast or audience watch while the artists, their faces transformed into masks by overlaid color, mime the horror of some kind of inner awakening, perhaps the passage from boyhood to maturity, which the hierarchy of the three figures seems to suggest.