Gilbert & George

Anthony D'Offay

The penis is no longer a penis. This is the dilemma facing Gilbert & George in their latest series of hand-colored photomontages titled New Democratic Pictures (all works 1991). Up to a certain point a penis was still a penis; prior to the ’80s an artist didn’t need to be any more explicit about what a penis actually meant. And as long as Gilbert & George remained clothed in their works, they didn’t need to worry either. But genitalia are now as implicated as soup cans and kitsch in the dance of transfiguration and transgression in Art and Life. Gilbert & George know this quite well and in response—some might say too quickly and too obviously—have dropped their trousers and knickers, admonishing us to “go in the street and listen. What word do you think is most important? Penis!”

Some would argue that dick has lost the same neat quality of self-evidence that successfully animated Gilbert

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