new-york

Dinos and Jake Chapman

Gagosian Gallery (21)

The Chapman Brothers’ installation Six Feet Under, 1997—featuring their infamous cast-resin sculptures of prepubescent children who sprout multiple adult genitalia amidst extra heads, arms, legs, and torsos—is vile and disgusting. The work reflects values that are patently immature, sensationalistic, and sick. Nothing justifies this vulgar display. That, for openers, is what makes their art so compelling and, at the same time, casts doubt on its value as art in so many minds.

On each of several visits to the installation, I witnessed viewers’ amusement rather than horror, which seemed appropriate since there’s nothing authentic about these sex-pocked kids. They are utterly unlike those who populate the work of Larry Clark or Nan Goldin; no privileged view into bohemia, no focused subjectivities excuse the Chapmans’ gratuitous sideshow. In this they’ve learned from mass culture’s fetishization

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