The acidic British duo has been making fantastic cultural commentaries since the late ’60s and now Gilbert and George’s traveling retrospective is on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The two artists met as sculpture students at St. Martins College of Art in London and began working together soon after. Their breakthrough endeavor, The Singing Sculpture, in which Gilbert and George performed as living, business suite clad sculptures, debuted at Sonnabend Gallery in 1969. Since then, they’ve aimed to break down art’s elitism, using pop culture references, found images, and loud splashes of color to make their work both visually delicious and provocative.
The duo has had solo shows at major museums before, including the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Shanghai Art Museum, and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and they were shortlisted for the first Turner Prize in 1984. But, despite their already glowing past career, this current exhibition, organized by the Tate Modern, shows how relevant their work still is to contemporary art. Their bold graphics and iconic culture references, mixed with intimate personal nuances, dynamically interact with the art-technology-mainstream-personal-politic discussions that define the current climate.
Perhaps their relevance continues simply because their work is driven by a respect for contemporary culture. “We’re great believers in the force of culture,” Gilbert says in the above clip. “There is a gap inside of everyone which can only be filled by reading, listening to music, writing poetry, making art, looking at art. We are not just bones and flesh and skin; we are cultured people.”