12 March – 17 April 1999
White Cube Duke Street
For their White Cube show, Jake and Dinos Chapman showed two sets of eighty-three etchings from their Disasters of War series. One hand-coloured set was shown in the gallery, with another black and white set displayed in the adjoining room. Employing classical etching technique of hard ground, soft ground and dry point with aquatint, they produced prints that display a rich and diverse range of images.
In these works, the Chapmans are clearly responding to Francisco de Goya and his graphic depiction of the Napoleonic occupation of Spain, while also giving free rein to their own drawing style and obsessions with the poles of beauty and pain, humour and horror, the sublime and perverse, the diabolical and the infantile.
Like Goya’s Disasters of War, their post-Christian images focus on victims rather than victors; some plates actually rework Goya’s original images or fragments of them. For example, in one etching, Great Deeds Against the Dead, with its mutilated, chopped-up bodies tied to a tree, has been overdrawn with a swastika; and in another, a seated soldier contemplating a hanged man has been turned into a hanged Nazi, observed by a grinning idiot.
Although Goya-esque piles of body parts do make an appearance in these works, most depict contemporary monstrosities, the ‘horrors’ we know of through television pictures and newspaper photographs, as well as comic and Bataillian images, such as eyeballs sprouting tendrils of hair, and various grotesque views of bodily orifices.