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  • Provenance

    Sonnabend Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    New York, Sonnabend Gallery and Lehmann Maupin, Gilbert & George The Fundamental Pictures, May 3-June 29, 1997; Stockholm, Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall, Gilbert & George, September 6, 1997-January 25, 1998; Athens School of Fine Arts, “The Factory”, The Art of Gilbert and George, October 5-November 25, 2001

  • Literature

    Gilbert & George and A. Roussos, Gilbert & George: The Fundamental Pictures 1996, London, 1997 (illustrated); R. Fuchs and Gilbert & George, Gilbert & George: The Complete Pictures 1971-2005, Volume Two, London, 2007, p. 866 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    A clergyman once said to us: Jealousy is a bad thing. But I must confess that I am sometimes jealous of the artist because the artist is closer to creation. (M. Gayford, “WeWill Do OurWorst: Gilbert & GeorgeTake on the Venice Biennale,” Modern Painters, London, June 2005).

    Ever since rewriting the definitions of sculpture and performance with their bronzed faces and bespoke suits as art students in late 1960s London, the legendary duo Gilbert & George have staked their career on complexity and contradiction as self-proclaimed sculptors whose early conceptual performances and more recent enlarged-photograph pieces fit uncomfortably, if at all, within the boundaries of conventional sculpture. Manifestly original yet endlessly referential, narcissistic and yet transcendent, trafficking in an opaque sort of exhibitionism and gleefully conflating the religious and profane; they are sophisticated critics and potty-mouthed provocateurs, elder statesmen with an enfant-terrible approach to the creative process who have together dedicated their lives to making good on the avant-garde premise that life and art are inseparable.

    A casual glance around the periphery of Piss on Piss (1996), from their series The Fundamental Pictures, suggests a large-scale exercise in tasteful abstraction. Over a bold yellow background twelve square panels combine to present a kaleidoscopic study in black and white forms that artfully align themselves with whatever we hope to see in them: branches, bare but for a dusting of white blossoms, or perhaps frost spreading across a pane of glass or even the mysterious swoops and serifs of a foreign calligraphy, all superimposed over a glowing field whose grand scale and colorful luminescence recall the majesty of a cathedral’s stained-glass window. The piece’s central figure, however, betrays by its elegantly biological composition the true nature of the work: like its fellow Fundamental Pictures, Piss on Piss was created by examining the molecular structure of our most basic excretions—urine, blood, semen, spit, and so forth—and enlarging the subject’s microscopic images to epic proportions.

    While shocking and undoubtedly scatological, what may also be at the heart of Piss on Piss lies the same grasping towards knowledge of the human condition that prompted the construction of religious stained-glass windows. Without a doubt, Gilbert & George’s work uncannily echoes the ornamentation and color of these Gothic constructions. “Fundamentally, there’s something religious about the fact that we’re made of shit,” they explain. “We consist of the stuff. It’s our nourishment, it belongs to us, we’re part of it, and we show this in a positive light.”The many products of human creativity, they maintain, are present in the structure of the very fluids without which our own creation would be an impossibility: “Out of these drops of blood come stained-glass windows… or Islamic writing. To see daggers and medieval swords in sweat, that’s our aim. In puss you find pistols, flowers, crucifixes. Spunk amazes us… it really does look like a crown of thorns” (J. Debbaut, Gilbert & George: Major Exhibition (Room 13), 2007). In keeping with their longstanding goal to collapse the distinction
    between art and life, by enlarging the particles of our most basic elements,
    Gilbert & George have created an abstract visual style that simultaneously manages to be surreally beautiful and yet as real as it gets.


Piss on Piss

12 hand-dyed photographs in artist's metal frames.
84 x 134 in. (213.3 x 340.4 cm) overall.
Signed, titled, and dated "Piss on Piss 1996 Gilbert & George" lower right.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £120,000

The Marino Golinelli Collection

13 October 2007, 1pm