Gilbert & George
Since meeting at Saint Martin’s School of Art in London in 1967, these two artists have lived and worked together, considering themselves a single artist separated into two people. Since the early 1970s, Gilbert & George have made works that center on their own lives, feelings, and bodies.
Early examples include photographic books, engravings, and cards sent to friends and acquaintances that bear writings and traces of their personal life, or performances called “Living” or “Singing Sculptures”. In the latter works, the two artists, faces and hands covered with bronze or gold powder, stood on a table, singing old English songs from the 1930 and performing robotic movements. They also categorize as sculptures their large charcoal drawings, in which they depict themselves in different moments of daily life, particularly while walking in public parks or relaxing in a pub. The emotional life is central to their interest and that symbolizes not only a new role for the artist, but a new concept of individuality and, consequently, social behavior.
Doubles,1989, belongs to a series called The Cosmological Pictures. Gilbert & George’s entire oeuvre can be called “cosmological” in terms of its thematic interest, and in this twenty-five-part series the two artists emphasize the pictorial use of photography, which has been characteristic of their work since the 1980s. Color is applied to black-and-white photographs, and the images are constructed through juxtapositions, combinations, and overlappings. In Doubles, the full-length figure of each of the two artists is repeated twice, and in two directions; behind the image of one is the doubled image of the other, in a symmetrical relationship that frequently governs the artists’ compositions. The “doubles” of the title, also printed at the bottom of the image, corresponds completely to the image that we see. It conveys the sense of unease that Western culture associates with the idea of the dopplegänger, as can be seen in numerous examples from literature and psychoanalysis. Literature shows it and depth psychology teaches it. Gilbert & George, each back-to-back with the double of the other, express this with their screaming faces, and the garish colors of their faces and clothing. Mitigating against this impression, however, is the yellow background against which a flowering tree branch is silhouettes, conveying the idea of regeneration and reconciliation.