Mouth

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Europe

  • Exhibited

    London, Richard Salmon Limited, Sequence, 29 August-20 September 1997

  • Literature

    C. Ratcliff, Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-1985, New York, 1986, p. 218 (illustrated in colour)
    R. Fuchs, Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-2005, Volume I, London, 2007, p. 456 (illustrated in colour)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The British duo, Gilbert & George first met in 1967 while students at Central Saint Martins, and have worked together since then. Their art is inseparable from their double persona – they consistently include their own portraits in their photo-pieces and pioneered the concept of ‘living sculpture’ when they exhibited themselves in metallic make-up singing the music-hall song ‘Underneath the Arches’ in 1969. Their motto, “Art for All”, announced early on in 1969, still drives their art today.

    Mouth (1983) is a relatively early work by Gilbert & George. It features their trademark grid of frames across which schematically arranged imagery is displayed, and like much of their work, is dominated by a particular political or religious theme, such as racism, patriotism, or religion. In the case of Mouth, the collage-like image is dominated by the presence of a red cross which emerges from a mouth-shaped blue orifice, partly hiding a view of rooftops, probably located in Spitalfields in east London where the artists have lived for the past 40 years.

    Unusually for much of Gilbert & George’s work, Mouth does not include depictions of the artists themselves; instead, two men (one of whom is the actor Martin Klunes, who modelled for Gilbert & George early in his career) kneel down in apparent genuflection. Good, another work from 1983, has a similar scheme to Mouth. In that work, red roses align to form a cross against a brick wall, while in Mouth two pink roses hang in the ochre sky. Throughout their career, Gilbert & George have used their work to direct criticism toward organised religion, including other works from the same year as Mouth, such as Drunk with God, Black God, Bad God and Yellow Cross. The same theme resurfaces in their work from 2005 in SonofaGod, and in their 2008 ‘Jack Freak’ pictures, with imagery such as the artists wearing union flag haloes in the work Stuff Religion.

    Gilbert & George’s photo-pieces contain powerful visual imagery organised with symmetry and using vivid colours, first used in 1982, makes their style immediately recognizable. Mouth is typical in this. Like so much of their work, it is both exuberant and stylized. Gilbert & George’s subjects, as in the present lot, combine the mundane with a grandness of both subject and scale. This, together with the mirroring of imagery and the humour they often inject into their serious message, often means that the work can seem puzzling. There is paradox too in Gilbert & George’s willingness to shock, though their depiction of sex, bodily fluids or religion, while their persona retains a conservative appearance. It is this leading of the onlooker in so many different directions that makes works such as Mouth so intriguing and enlightening.

24

Mouth

1983
hand-dyed gelatin silver prints and gold leaf in artist’s metal frames in 15 parts
each: 60.5 x 50.5 cm (23 7/8 x 19 7/8 in); overall: 181 x 250 cm (71 1/4 x 98 3/8 in)

Estimate
£100,000 - 150,000 ♠ †

sold for £115,250

Contemporary Art Evening

28 June 2012
London