© Gilbert & George - Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage
A manifesto for modern times, the triptych "Class War, Militant, Gateway" (1986) is the first large-scale work by Gilbert & George.
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.