'The Beard Pictures' are described as violent, eerie, grotesque, lurid and crazed. According to the organisers of the show they depict a dream-like world of paranoia and destruction, but also insanity. The colours are strange, possibly sickly. Creeping, smashed up, absurd landscapes confront the viewer with relentless aggression. 'The Beard Pictures' are said to depict a world bereft of reason in which negotiation no longer exists.
As is their habit the artists Gilbert & George take their places within the pictures, but in a warped fashion. Some would say as empty-headed and sinister versions of themselves. Their eyes are shadowed and bizarrely prettified. Gilbert & George seem to look into and through the viewer. Their look is stern and mocking. In each picture the artists wear beards that are both surreal and symbolic. The beards are made of wire mesh, beer foam or flowers. One pictures shows beards made of rabbits with snakes for tongues.
Gilbert & George have lived and worked together as 'living sculptures' for over half a century making a visionary journey through the modern world, always together and always alone. They have produced their own singular form of anti-art that is both poetic and emotionally driven. It's been said that in their works order and madness are held in tension, while a vaudevillian absurdity takes on the air of a paranormal ritual. Gilbert & George appear like poltergeists or spirit sentinels in a world gone mad.
In some of the pictures the artists stand either in front or behind a barbed wire or mesh fence. Elsewhere rusting steel rods sprout from collapsing concrete buildings. In other pictures Gilbert & George are unsmiling comic grotesques with tiny bodies and huge heads. Behind them we may see a blank silvery void, ads for builders and sex workers or the heads of popes and monarchs.
The works trash contemporary artistic niceties but resonate with intense symbolism. The series resembles a mad parade that conjures up the image of science fiction or the Victorian era. Take your pick!
'The Beard Pictures' is the third series to receive a show at the Albert Baronian in Brussels. Morgan Haquenne: « Gilbert & George' always work in series. In 2009 we hosted the 'Jack Freak Pictures' and in 2012 'The London Pictures' »
Gilbert & George are based in East London and say that everything that happens in life happens in East London.
Morgan Haquenne: « Each series consists of hundreds of pictures. There are some 500 images in the current series. Gilbert & George work with the White Cube Gallery in London, the Lehman Maupin in New York and the Albert Baronian in Brussels. There are also galleries in Paris, Athens and Naples that show their pictures. Different pictures are produced for each gallery. Gilbert & George made twelve works for the gallery in Brussels. They made many more works for the London gallery. »
Gilbert & George are famed for their opposition to elitist art and are eager to produce works for all. So what about the prices? In Brussels the most expensive work will set you back 178,000 euros. The cheapest goes for 77,000 euros. Posters of some of the works are available for ten euros as is the catalogue. All are signed. Gilbert & George produce a different catalogue for each of the galleries. They have a hands on approach and are closely involved in the layout of the publication.
Gilbert & George's 'The Beard Pictures' are being hosted by the Galerie Albert Baronian on the Isidore Verheydenstraat 2 in Brussels until 23 December. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 6PM.