Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb is proud to present a major solo exhibition by the world renowned artists GILBERT & GEORGE which will open on 10 June 2010. The JACK FREAK PICTURES comprise the single largest series of work ever made by the illustrious British duo.
The exhibition entitled the JACK FREAK PICTURES is being presented in collaboration with the British Council. It has been conceived by GILBERT & GEORGE specially for the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb and it will be the first ever showing of their art in Croatia.
According to the writer Michael Bracewell, “the JACK FREAK PICTURES are among the most iconic, philosophically astute and visually violent works that Gilbert & George have ever created.” The dominant pictorial element is the Union Jack, itself an internationally familiar, abstract, geometric pattern and a socially and politically charged symbol whose significance spans the cultural spectrum from contemporary fashion to aggressive national pride. Equally prominent, and linking the JACK FREAK PICTURES to almost every work previously created by the artists, are Gilbert & George themselves in a variety of guises: dancing, gurning, howling, watching, waiting. Sometimes their bodies seem complete; other times they have been fragmented or contorted. Invariably they feature as both subject and object, artwork and artist; they are players in the epic and complex pictorial drama they have created.
Set in the East End of London where Gilbert & George have lived and worked for over forty years, the JACK FREAK PICTURES bring numerous aspects of the modern world to life. Medals, flags, maps, street-signs, graffiti and other less immediately obvious motifs jostle for attention with the brickwork, buildings and even foliage of the contemporary urban environment in works that are densely layered and complexly nuanced to evoke (and sometimes conflate) a sense of past, present and future. They raise fundamental and rudimentary questions about religion, identity, politics, economics, sexuality and death. The JACK FREAK PICTURES reaffirm Gilbert & George’s status as pre-eminent Modernists and underlineRobert Rosenblum’s observation that “of the singularity of their duality in life as art, there is little doubt”.
Although closely relating to the British national symbol – the Union Jack – the JACK FREAK PICTURES are universal in their nature because they show the collision of individual histories, embodied in the figures of the two artists, with general, national history. Their pictures are often compared to Balzac's “Comedie humaine” and speak about the burden of the glorious past. Gilbert & George use not only their art but also all their public appearances to raise controversial questions that inspire us to seek new answers. Although they object to being called provocateurs, their art – in which they express highly ethical humane stances, standing for diversity – can have different effects in different contexts, like litmus paper.
Gilbert & George met in 1967 during their studies in the renowned London academy, St Martins School of Art, and since then have been working together. From the very beginning, their work has drawn on a range of autobiographical references. They have been using their own bodies and environment as subject matter, abolishing the distinction between their life and their art. In their public appearances they never cease to foster the image of living sculpture – calm, kind, very well synchronized – but never less provocative or controversial in their attitude.
Gilbert & George believe in “Art for All”, they want their art to communicate with the wider public, not only to experts and connoisseurs. Their pictures are characteristically divided into a grid creating a kaleidoscopic image which draws on a range of historic and contemporary symbolism. The JACK FREAK PICTURES, which we are presenting in Zagreb, fascinate us by their strong visual expressiveness and by the complexity of their content. We are therefore especially glad to be able to present Gilbert & George to the Croatian public in our Museum, only a few months after the new building has been opened. Indeed the exhibition was conceived from its inception to open at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb in 2007.