Lehmann Maupin presenting THE CORPSING PICTURES by Gilbert & George

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Lehmann Maupin presenting THE CORPSING PICTURES by Gilbert & George
Gilbert & George, Dump, 2022. Mixed media, 74.8 x 88.98 inches. © Gilbert & George. Courtesy the artists and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London.

NEW YORK, NY.- Lehmann Maupin are presenting THE CORPSING PICTURES, a new group of pictures by Gilbert & George. The exhibition marks their tenth solo presentation at the gallery. The exhibition comprises a suite of richly colored pictures starring the artists themselves in various poses of alarm and resignation as bones encroach in intricate patterns over their faces and bodies. Masterfully employing their signature use of bold color and symmetrical composition, Gilbert & George confront the subject of mortality and life itself with winking gallows humor, leaving each picture open to multiple interpretations.

Gilbert & George met as art students in 1967 at Saint Martin’s School of Art, where they developed the concept of “living sculptures.” Meticulously groomed and dressed in suits, the artists’ legendary promenades through the streets of London, heads and hands coated in metallic powders, formed the blueprint for future art that centered on the performative and sculptural potential of the body. Since then, they have lived and worked together in London’s East End, their individual identities subsumed into a vision of animate sculpture. Gilbert & George have long been beloved fixtures and keen observers of their changing world. As attentive to the detritus in the gutters of London as they are to the shifting social mores of the citizens who walk its streets, the artists have provoked strong reactions and critical thinking on subjects ranging from sex, violence, identity, and death.

From its title, THE CORPSING PICTURES promises to elaborate these long running thematic concerns through a destabilizing play on words. “Corpsing” is a term that comes from theater. It refers to the instant an actor breaks character by doing something unprofessional such as accidentally laughing or moving when they are supposed to be playing dead. In such moments, the character is revealed as an actor, the illusion broken, and the scene killed. In many of THE CORPSING PICTURES, Gilbert & George stare out at the viewer, breaking the fourth wall through direct address and deliberately embracing the cardinal mistake of rookie actors by “corpsing” death.

Each picture is richly colored in a red and gold palette that features Gilbert & George alternately ensconced, entombed, and enclosed behind a lively formation of bones. Skeletons of various origins make a sepulchral appearance. Many are human (BONE BOX and HA HA have a distinctly archeological character); some are vegetal (RIB TIES and TIES include the delicate fringes of desiccated flora); other bones are implied, as in CHAINS, which features no visible bones at all but simply Gilbert & George–still enfleshed–whose skeletons provide the armature for their signature suits.

The heft and character of the bones play out a drama of memento mori told in visually striking vignettes. EQUALS centers two large bones across the bodies of Gilbert & George, playfully recalling the adage that death is the great equalizer. KISS BONE anoints the pair with the kiss of death or life–a hulking X formed by two massive femurs. BONE WHEEL, on the other hand, features delicate patterns of bones arranged in pleasing ornaments across the picture plane. Indeed, THE CORPSING PICTURES are insistently horizontal, signaling the position of final repose by references to pavement, litter, vegetation, prone bodies, and upturned shoe soles. Many of these bones are no longer held in vertical alignment by ligaments and muscles, but clattered to the floor–perhaps the result of a divining incantation or a diverting game such as pick up sticks. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet put it to the gravedigger:

“Did these bones cost no more the
breeding but to play at loggets with them?”

Lehmann Maupin
June 22nd, 2023 - August 18th, 2023

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