The other day I found a set of photographs of two men whose poses and faces made me smile. They are Gilbert and George, a pair of artists who have been creating art since they met in London in the late sixties. Their multimedia works that mix several disciplines such as performance, photography, and drawing, is bursting with a sense of humor that is far from just being a joke. On the contrary, their works and visions couldn’t be more relatable and touching. Using the motto “Art for all,” they add a sense of humanity and inclusiveness to art, especially to the contemporary art, which tends to focus only on the individual and the concept. As self-made outsiders of mainstream art, they learned how to live and work as outcasts of art, which proved to give them the best tools and sources of inspiration to create pieces that talk not only to an elite circle of society, but to the masses that, according to them, also need art.
It was 1967 when these young artists met at St. Martin's art school. They had such chemistry that by the following year they were living together, and have been since. From the moment they met, they decided to work together as a duo. One of the most interesting things about their artistic vision is how their greatest wish was for the world to become the greatest art gallery. In a recent interview with Another Magazine, they commented on how in the seventies, when you asked people about their favorite artists they would analyze them in the most snobbish and poser-like voice. They'd claim to love Leonardo and Michelangelo, the more mainstream, and also quite dead, artists. They’re happy to see that nowadays new artists are emerging from every part of the world and art is now appreciated in every single aspect of life.
With the goal of turning the world into a massive art gallery, they thought the best way to bring that artistic essence to the streets was by making themselves pieces accessible to everybody. So, they came out with the project that became their signature work, their living sculptures. The first one they created was called the “Singing Sculpture” in 1969. The idea, based on their "Laws of Sculpture" manifesto, consisted of them dressing in grey suits and painting their faces and hands with copper metallic tones and creating poses to stand still. Once people approached them, they started singing “Underneath the Arches,” a song about the many people living under bridges during the depression. In that way, their performance became a criticism against contemporary capitalism.
This piece provoked the controversy they were aiming for. From that moment on, their works, either their living sculptures or any other medium used, followed that controversial essence to confront their audience with the realities they were living. In all their works, including performances, collages, photographs, and pictorial pieces, they always portray themselves as the protagonists. Another crucial element of their art is the portrayal of the urban culture to illustrate many taboo subjects such as sex, race, identity, religion, politics, and even AIDS. In that way, their work not only becomes relatable to everybody, but works as a more effective way to criticize and expose the government’s role in these subjects. However, what differentiates this artistic duo isn’t only the subjects they deal with, but the sarcastic and comic tone with which they present them.
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