14 January – 19 February 2011
White Cube Mason's Yard presented an exhibition of new work titled THE URETHRA POSTCARD ART of Gilbert & George.
In 2009, nearly four decades after their first exhibition of POSTCARD ART, and twenty years since their last group of pictures to be made in the medium of postcards, Gilbert & George returned to the form to make the epic and dazzling group of 564 new pieces that comprise THE URETHRA POSTCARD PICTURES. This is the single largest group of art works made by Gilbert & George, and in turn comprises seven individual groups of new POSTCARD PICTURES. White Cube Mason's Yard exhibited 155 of these works.
The art of Gilbert & George has always described, with utmost clarity, poignancy and intensity, the unifying experiences of being alive in the modern world. The artists have addressed those subjects that are seldom considered within the language and focus of contemporary art and culture: that which is lowly, discarded, hidden, quotidian, awkward, confrontational, unfashionable, volatile, isolated or left un-regarded.
THE URETHRA POSTCARD PICTURES reveal Gilbert & George at their most intent and artistically all seeing. These new pieces are united, compositionally, by their elements comprising "an angulated version of the sign of urethra". This shape - a continuous rectangle of cards, with a single card in its central space - mimics the sexual symbol used by the one time theosophist C. W. Leadbetter (1853 - 1934) to accompany his signature, and as such proposes that this group of new art works is infused with a still confrontational libertarianism.
Advancing their long-standing engagement with commercially manufactured images and texts - including in this case, picture postcards, telephone box cards and flyers - Gilbert & George describe, in THE URETHRA POSTCARD PICTURES, both a modern urban world and a sexual society that is covert or marginalised within that world. In this group of pictures, prostitution and sexually transmitted disease (for example) are treated with precisely the same sense of scale, aesthetic and compositional language as nationhood and civic identity. In this THE URETHRA POSTCARD PICTURES affirm themes that Gilbert & George have addressed throughout their art, and most recently in such groups as THE NEW HORNY PICTURES and THE JACK FREAK PICTURES.
In their sheer visual intensity, the extremism of their language, and above all the forceful unity of their composition, THE URETHRA POSTCARD PICTURES both extend the POSTCARD ART of Gilbert & George as a specific form, and comprise one of the most powerful, mesmeric, and intensely conceived and created groups of art works that the artists have ever made.
Michael Bracewell, (The Complete Postcard Art of Gilbert & George, Prestel 2011)
Gilbert was born in the Dolomites, Italy in 1943; George was born in Devon in 1942. Both live and work in London. Together they have participated in many important group and solo exhibitions including the largest retrospective of any artist to be staged at Tate Modern (2007). The exhibition went on to tour Haus der Kunst, Munich (2007); Castello di Rivioli, Turin (2007); Milwaukee Art Museum (2008) and Brooklyn Museum (2008-2009). They have had many other extensive solo exhibitions, including Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1971-1972); National Gallery, Beijing (1993); Shanghai Art Museum (1993); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1995-1996); Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1998); Serpentine Gallery, London (2002); Kunsthaus Bregenz (2002); Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (2004-2005); CAC, Malaga (2010); Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (2010) and Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels (2010). They won the Turner Prize in 1984 and represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2005.
A new double volume publication, reproducing the entire POSTCARD ART works created by Gilbert & George, with an essay by Michael Bracewell and published by Prestel accompanied the exhibition.