Class War, Militant, Gateway

  • 1986
  • Gilbert & George
  • Triptych: photographic paper, Silkscreen print on satiny surface
  • Class war: 363 x 1,010 cm - Militant: 363 x 758 cm - Gateway: 363 x 758 cm
 It illustrates the journey of an individual, from membership of a community to the development of a personal conscience and self-affirmation. As with most of their works, the images, arranged in a grid of black frames, are presented as a frieze dominated by the colours red, white and blue. Gateway shows the artists facing front, standing, a red stick in their hands, either side of young people bent over in expectant poses, in front of a mass of red flowers that stand out against a black and white urban scene. In the background of the central panel, Class War, a crowd depicted in black and white move towards four openings – the different aspects of the city? Above these hover close-up views of the artists’ eyes – the view of society?  – framed within red circles, while young people wearing blue trousers, in profile or three-quarter view, file past holding sticks. The composition of the third panel, Militant, is simple: four young people stand, gazing directly out, each holding a stick as an emblem of their conquered freedom. The stick, a central symbol in the piece, signifies a dignity that is difficult to acquire. Gilbert & George’s philosophy is that young people must always fight for their place in society.

© Gilbert & George. Photo © Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage © Gilbert & George. Photo © Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage © Gilbert & George. Photo © Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage


Gilbert & George

Soon after graduating from Saint Martin’s School of Art, where they met in 1967, Gilbert & George rose to fame through their self-proclaimed “living sculptures”.

Wearing conventional suits, their faces impassive and covered with coloured powder, they perform a 1930s song, Underneath the Arches, an anthem of the lower classes, choosing to distance themselves from their immediate artistic entourage, who were more formalist and conceptual. In everyday settings, they walk, sing, read and drink, building up a body of visual material that they assembled from the early 1970s, first in black and white, then in colour, in grid formats that have frequently been compared to stained glass. Proclaiming it as “art for all”, they developed a new humanism with a universal content while refusing to provide an interpretation. Religion, sexuality, death and violence, the stuff of tabloid headlines, are the main themes of their compositions, which are inspired by their life in a working-class area of East London, where they have lived for all of their artistic career. In 2004 they began to use computers to create increasingly sophisticated allegories reflecting changes in contemporary society.

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