Gilbert & George  Thirty-four Streets 2003

Gilbert & George
Thirty-four Streets 2003
Private collection, Los Angeles. Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/ Salzburg

The LONDON E1 pictures are based on the street signs of Gilbert & George’s own postal district. Like the other pictures incorporating found text – whether graffiti, personal advertisements or street flyers – they form an idiosyncratic map of the city, tracing the artist’s endless wanderings. Each street name suggests its own history and furtive associations, while the demented or ghostly presence of the artists hints at the East End’s reputation as the dark underbelly of London. The pubic lice that adorn the corners of TWENTY-EIGHT STREETS are, similarly, reminders that the East End has long been the place where Londoners took their illicit pleasures.

With the SONOFAGOD PICTURES, Gilbert & George returned to the theme of religion and intolerance. There is a certain glee in their determination to provoke. Titles such as WAS JESUS HETEROSEXUAL? show the artists relishing the potential for mischief. The pictures incorporate symbols from Judaism and Islam as well as Christianity. Heavy with massed crucifixes and other regalia, they echo the dark, jewelled aesthetic of the late nineteenth-century Gothic revival.