jake or dinos chapman – white cube

18 July 2011 § Leave a comment

Correct – Jake or Dinos. Each of the infamous brothers has supposedly worked separately for around a year to each produce their own White Cube exhibition – one at Masons Yard and one at Hoxton. Having only collaborated since graduating from the RCA in 1990 this show is an experimental diversion – Dinos recently said ‘We’re not interested in our similarities between our interests, but the divergencies. This show will be an exemplar of that.’

What you get here is not really a surprise – the brothers have rarely, if at all, moved from their disturbing moral takes on politics, religion and morality and again we see few divergencies. It all starts comfortably enough upstairs at Masons Yard with a deliberately cramped display of forty-seven roughly hewn sculptural works, constructed of thick cardboard and roughly painted in dark shades. Each sits on its own white pedestal. Think Picasso or Schwitters assemblages as made by primary school children, a rethink of modernist sculpture.

Downstairs Dinos (I think, but it really doesn’t matter) really gets going. Uniformed Nazis, flesh stripped off and charred black, sporting deathly grins admire an exhibition of similar, but more monumental works in painted steel whilst randomly buggering or being shat upon by stuffed birds. A reversed and nightmarish version of Entartete Kunst – the Nazis exhibition of forbidden art – but here being enjoyed by the degenerate gurning guards. On the wall original Goya Disasters of War etchings are symbolically drawn over and blackened.

In a separate darkened room a work by Pieter Bruegel (his nickname ‘Hell-Breugel’) has been distorted and defaced with trademark Chapman figures. Breughel was presumably a Chapman influence – filling his paintings with hellish medieval grotesques of his own – so much so that Adrian Searle (in the only review I have read so far – Guardian) hilariously missed the Chapman’s additions!

Over at Hoxton disturbing animal-faced children huddle and admire the paintings – large, brooding Chapmanesque takes on fairy-stories. Childhood stolen and distorted. Upstairs are tableaux of household Catholic shrines, the tacky, gothic statuettes of religious figures in painted plaster are similarly deformed – baby Jesus with swirling tentacles instead of a face, Madonna with stitched-on patches of skin. These are sinister Orwellian ‘Big Brother’ Icons and more wonderful digs at the fakery of religion.

Some hard-boiled art critics have taken to criticising the brothers on the basis that their art no longer shocks. This is just not true – we may have seen it before or suspect what the Chapmans are going to show us but they miss the fact that this is art which gets you on a visceral level. It also pushes and prods us and intellectually challenges us whilst examining the history of art. Some find the Chapmans an easy target and, although I would love them to try something new, I prefer to side with Waldemar Januszczak who finds them amongst the most important artists working today. Love ’em or hate ’em it is a show you should see.

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