Tag Archives: Duality

Gilbert & George: “Two Men, One Artist”

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    Bloody Life, 1975

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    Black Church Face, 1980

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    Hellish, 1980

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    Finding God, 1982

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    Winter Flowers, 1982

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    Youth Faith, 1982

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    Fear, 1984

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    Here, 1987

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    One Way, 2001

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    Mass, 2005

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

When Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore staged one of their first moving sculptures at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 1969, they began a performance that has never ended. The duo met while studying at St. Martin’s School of Art and embarked on what is now a 45-year collaboration, an eccentric, independent perpetual ‘happening,’ exploring what art historian and curator Robert Rosenblum called, “the singularity of their duality.”

On Tuesday, April 3, 2012, dawning customary deadpan expressions, the duo will bring what the UK’s Independent calls “their seamless double-act, walking in step and talking in antiphon, all clothes, habits and opinions synchronised, [sic] all sentences prefixed by a regal ‘we’,” to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for a conversation with novelist and cultural historian Michael Bracewell.

Together known as one Gilbert & George, they’ve produced an enormous body of visceral, often provocative photography-based work—art independent of any school or movement, art of everyday modern urban life, as they deem with their slogan, “Art for All.” Contrary to the work of many contemporary blockbuster artists, their aim is “to speak across the barriers of knowledge directly to the people about their life and not about the knowledge of art.”

George and Gilbert with Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures, 1971 – 2005

They manipulate images of architecture, lurid graffiti, shop windows and most often themselves on exceptionally powerful computers in their home studio and print on massive, mural-sized panels, 200 of which made up their monumental 2007 retrospective occupying the entire forth floor at Tate Modern, the largest exhibition by a living artist there yet. In collaboration with Aperture Foundation, Tate Publishing also released a unique, two-volume retrospective monograph joined in one carrying case designed and produced by the artists, Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures, 1971–2005.

In their time together, Gilbert & George have taken tens of thousands of photographs virtually all within walking distance of their East London flat for their art of everyday life. As they often claim, “Nothing happens in the world that doesn’t happen in the East End.” With subject matter covering what the Guardian coupled as “nudity,  bondage, bad language and turds,” and series titles such as Cunt Scum, Naked Shit, New Horny Pictures and Drunk with God, their work has attracted alternatively the outrage and adoration of the media.

Some question it as pure shock value, though Gilbert & George refute this claim, suggesting to the Independent, “We want to un-shock people, and bringing these subjects into the open, allowing them to live and breathe, should un-shock.”

In a four-part video tour of their studio, they say furthermore:

Each of our pictures is a kind of visual love letter from us to the viewer and it is the space between the picture and the viewer that makes art, the thoughts and feelings that go through the person when examining the picture.

Their aim is to confront the viewer with some kind of morality, ambiguous or otherwise, but never to impose. Rather, they explore it together with the viewer.

“We are not sending them to heaven or hell,” says Gilbert in another video interview. “We are sending them,” laughs George, “to the bar instead.”

 

Second Annual Robert Rosenblum Lecture:
Gilbert & George in Conversation with Michael Bracewell
Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 6:30 PM
SOLD OUT

Standby tickets may be available if space allows. Please call the Box Office at (212) 423-3587 for more information. $10, $7 members, free for students with a valid ID.

Solomon T. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10128

Photographer #377: Hein-Kuhn Oh

Hein-Kuhn Oh, 1963, South-Korea, received a B.A. from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and an M.F.A. at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. His career started as a documentary photographer capturing the social landscapes on the streets. However in the last decade he concentrated on documenting specific groups of people that present a certain type of convention created by the Korean society. His series Ajumma contains a large selection of portraits that show middle-aged Korean women. In 2001 he started the Girl’s Act series which consists of images of high school girls photographed between 2001 and 2004 and a series called Cosmetic Girls that he worked on between 2005 and 2009. For Cosmetic Girls he portrayed girls wearing make-up that he met on the streets, intrigued by the duality in the Korean society of the ‘subject and object of desire’. The project deals with the common notions and stereotypes that are influenced by the entertainment media in Korean society. Hein-Kuhn has released four monographs and exhibited his work at a large number of venues around the globe. The following images come from the series Cosmetic Girls, Girl’s Act: Highschool Girls and Ajumma.

Website: www.heinkuhnoh.com

Photographer #377: Hein-Kuhn Oh

Hein-Kuhn Oh, 1963, South-Korea, received a B.A. from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara and an M.F.A. at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. His career started as a documentary photographer capturing the social landscapes on the streets. However in the last decade he concentrated on documenting specific groups of people that present a certain type of convention created by the Korean society. His series Ajumma contains a large selection of portraits that show middle-aged Korean women. In 2001 he started the Girl’s Act series which consists of images of high school girls photographed between 2001 and 2004 and a series called Cosmetic Girls that he worked on between 2005 and 2009. For Cosmetic Girls he portrayed girls wearing make-up that he met on the streets, intrigued by the duality in the Korean society of the ‘subject and object of desire’. The project deals with the common notions and stereotypes that are influenced by the entertainment media in Korean society. Hein-Kuhn has released four monographs and exhibited his work at a large number of venues around the globe. The following images come from the series Cosmetic Girls, Girl’s Act: Highschool Girls and Ajumma.

Website: www.heinkuhnoh.com

Photographer #346: Tiane Doan Na Champassak

Tiane Doan Na Champassak, 1973, France, started his photographic career with documentary photography. Now he focuses on fine art photography, however still concentrating on the human being as his subject. His work revolving around acts of faith and questions of identity become close to abstracts photographs. He has released various monographs for which he has traveled to many places around the world as India, Ethiopia, Burma, The Netherlands and others. His project Kolkata is scheduled to be released as a book in 2011. In the city of Calcutta he focused on the extremes; quiet and loud, clean and dirty, modern and old. The continuous duality became his leitmotiv and the reason to concentrate on street life to best represent the chaos of the huge city. The following works come from the series Spleen and Ideal, No Photo and Kolkata.

Website: www.champassak.com

Review: Valerio Spada, Gomorrah Girl

Valerio Spada, Gomorrah Girl

Valerio Spada, Gomorrah Girl

I caught up with Valerio Spada after missing the book launch of Gomorrah Girl at Le Bal in Paris in early March. The tallest Italian I have ever met, his enthusiasm and heart-on-his-sleeve sincerity are infectious and endearing (check out his Tumblr for a nice example of this). Spada explained how Gomorrah Girl had initially come about as a shoot on adolescence in Naples, during which he had discovered the story of Annalisa Durante, a 14 year-old girl who was killed, shot in the head by a stray bullet in an assassination attempt, as she was talking to a young Camorra mobster. It was when Spada heard Annalisa’s story from her father Giovanni Durante, that he realised that he had found the heart of his project. After the excellent film, Gomorrah by Matteo Garrone (based on the Roberto Saviano novel), Spada’s book also focuses on adolescence but more specifically on the plight of the teenage girls living in this fiercely masculine world.

Hearing Spada talk about this book it is clear that after discovering the story of Annalisa, she became a constant presence that accompanied him in the background to every one of his shoots in the city. What I found ingenious in Gomorrah Girl is that it succeeds in translating this duality into the form of the book. It is essentially two intertwined books, the first simply presenting straight photographs of the police report on Annalisa’s shooting and the second containing Spada’s photographs of different aspects of the city’s adolescent life. By interweaving these two books page by page, Annalisa’s story, as embodied by the police report on her accidental murder, becomes a constant backdrop to the portraits of the young girls that make up the second book. This structure gives the book a certain ominous feeling, as if Annalisa’s fate is hanging over each of the girls pictured in the book and could become theirs at any moment. The design by Sybren Kuiper (what is it with the Dutch photobook mafia?!?!) is intelligent and turns this otherwise straightforward documentary project, into something more interesting and multi-layered.

In a way, what I enjoyed most about the book is the way the object is so important in telling the story. Another example of the intelligence of the design is that, in addition to the two-book structure, the paper used for the police report section of the book is very flimsy, and, if you spend enough time with Gomorrah Girl, it’s likely that its pages will resemble those of the police report that it depicts. Although Spada’s portraits of Neapolitan adolescents are quite strong, I found myself wanting a more in-depth into their world rather than just a glimpse of each of their individual stories. I found that the book fell a little short of presenting a more complex and developed picture of the world in which these adolescents live. There are some fascinating threads to follow however, such as the neomelodico girls, which would be worthy of a book project in itself. In one caption Spada explains that the neomelodico “can make up to 200,000 euros per year for singing at weddings and other various ceremonies … Through some of these songs and ceremonies the Camorra families send messages to each other.” In a portrait of one of these young singers, tears roll down the girl’s face but her expression betrays no emotion… if anything her face shows how hard she has had to become to live in the world that surrounds her.

Valerio Spada. Gomorrah Girl. Cross Editions (self-pub., soft cover, 40 + 40 pages, colour plates, 2011). Limited edition of 500 copies.

Rating: Recommended

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