London

Gilbert & George

Serpentine Galleries

Gilbert & George began as “living sculptures,” confounding the seemingly self-evident distinction between artist and object. Even since their work took a primarily photographic form three decades ago, its central trope has remained their own emblematic presence. So one of the most striking aspects of “The Dirty Words Pictures,” 1977, is how understated the presence of the artists’ image is in comparison with the work that led up to and follow edit—even on a quantitative level. In eighteen of the twenty-six works, each member of the partnership is present in just one out of the sixteen or twenty-five gridded panels of black-and-white imagery. Instead, the emphasis is on the world that surrounds them—the run-down, desperate world of punk-era London, with its broken windows and rubbish-strewn sidewalks, where strangled emotions are scrawled in the graffiti that runs across the top

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