PARADISICAL PICTURES by Gilbert & George
Spruth Magers, Los Angeles
through January 25, 2020
Written by Sydney Walters
The highly decorative and irreverent show at Spruth Magers is a psychotropic voyage of two aging artists reckoning with death. Sometimes taunting, other times painfully self aware, Gilbert & George identify signs of decay in their life before anyone else can.
The initial impact of THE PARADISICAL PICTURES is an explosion of saturated colors. They are luminous images, divided into panels making them appear like stained glass windows. In the downstairs gallery, the works are billboard size, making them truly envelop the space and sing with the ghosts of Art Nouveau glasswork.
A bench is positioned in front ON THE BENCH. The stoic portraits of Gilbert & George border an image of the duo sitting on a bench at the base of a large tree trunk. The two are in blue and red onesies and appear like limp dolls, sagging and leaning uncomfortably on the bench. The juxtaposition of their portraits mirroring the historic portrait of Sigmund Freud with their picture on the bench suggests a regression to childlike behavior. It operates as a portal into the subconscious of two aging men aware that old age, similar to early childhood, severely limits the body.
The transformation of aging bodies is further suggested in their metaphoric imagery of chains, decaying plants, fungi and dates. In CHAINS, the faces of Gilbert & George, this time rendered in black and white, with the exception of their red eyes, are outlined in a paper doll-like scrawl in metal. In the background, a collage of multicolored leaves is printed in vibrant magenta, blue, yellow and green. The veins on the leaves are exposed like a negative on a CT scan making the leaves look more like organs than foliage. The chains communicate a clumsiness of the body. It is rigid and uncompromising compared to the curvature and strength of a muscular body. CHAINS is another metaphor for the body loosing its youth and elasticity to something more brittle and mechanic, alluding to the people in their last days or years of life who might be entirely supported by a machine.
The exhibition continues upstairs with images that are more thematically united with language about relationships, love and sex. Here, the irreverent and most vulgarly explicit content arise. Under the guise of a pun, Gilbert & George present DATE RAPE. It is a cacophony of foliage twisted inside a perimeter of shriveled dates. This piece is problematic because in its existence as a work of art for purchase, that purchase is capitalizing off of someone’s trauma. That kind of dealership and exchange is arguably ripping at the moral fibers that keep us a healthy and functioning society. Controversy is not outside the duo’s wheelhouse. In fact, it is a necessary cog in their artistic machine. This piece will be a significant turn off for many visitors. However, bypassing that work, the rest of the show is an enjoyable psychedelic journey into mortality.