Gilbert & George 'Urethra Postcard Pictures'
17 février - 19 mars 2011
Opening in the artistsʼ presence
Thursday 17 February, 2011 - 7pm-8:30pm.
ʻThe form of the Post Card Piece lends itself to the expression of finer feelings, stirring
thoughts and beautiful views.
Through our hearts, brains and bodies the cards crystallise into our crosses of Monarchical,
Christian, Nationalistic, Violent, Pagan, Floral, Sexual Post Card Pieces.
They are our shields, our swords, our emblem, our vision, our trombstone and our lifemasksʼ
- Gilbert & George 1981
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac is delighted to announce the forthcoming Gilbert & George
exhibition 'Urethra Postcard Pictures'. These new pictures consist of works of art made from
postcards of London, telephone box cards, advertising cards and flyers that can be found in
Since 1972 Gilbert & George have used postcards widely in their art, those dating from the
Edwardian period or the First World War up until the more modern, mass-produced ones for
the tourist trade.
In the 'Urethra Postcard Pictures', they describe, as they have always done throughout their
artistic practice, the modern urban world, by tackling subjects in a simple and direct way
which are close to their hearts, like nationalism, patriotism, sexuality, but also the city in
which they live and work, London along with its touristic and sexual attractions …
For each picture, Gilbert & George have gathered all the existing cards like a monomaniac
anthropologist or a scientist to compose thematic and repetitive boards. They created 564
pictures in total, 76 of which are presented at the gallery.
Gilbert & George do not use these images taken from everyday life in order to develop a
Pop Art aesthetic. They neither celebrate nor denounce mass culture or contemporary
production and consumer systems. They use these images as a simple medium, filled with
thoughts and meaning. Moreover they speak about the way in which they make use of the
cards like automatic writing.
They find efficient sources of inspiration in the voice of the people, a repertory of canonical
images to create what they call “Art for All”.
These new pictures display more familiar formats than the monumental Jack Freak Pictures,
which were the subject of their last exhibition at the gallery. However the compositional
geometric decoupage is again at large in the Urethra Postcard Pictures. Each composition,
whether horizontal or vertical is subjected to the same template: a ring of 12 attached cards
framing a central card. Beneath each arrangement, a dated and signed label bears the title
of the picture in red capital letters which also serves as a reminder about the importance
bestowed upon the text and the titles by the artists.
Gilbert, born in the Italian Dolomites in 1943, and George, born in Devon, England in 1942,
both art students, meet in 1967 at St Martinʼs School of Art in London (now Central Saint
Martins College of Art and Design). At the end-of-year-show, the Snow Show, Gilbert and
George created their first art as a joint effort, far removed from the formalist criteria of the art
taught. In 1969, they created their first “singing and living sculptures”, making themselves
both subjects and objects of their works in a perfect fusion of their art and their everyday
life. Gilbert & George then start to appear as “living sculptures” in museums and galleries. In
1970, during a renowned presentation, they sang and moved along Flanagan & Allenʼs song
Underneath the Arches for hours. The pictures dating from 1971 are the first gridarrangements,
which would henceforth become their formal signature. In 1980, their
iconography becomes more complex containing endless levels of meanings from symbolic
and allegorical to the most unbridled eroticism, to the religious, political and personal.
Gilbert & George have worked as one artist for over 40 years and have created more than
In 1980, the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven put together their first retrospective
exhibition showing their pictures of 1971-80. In 1997, the Musée dʼart moderne, Paris
hosted a major retrospective exhibition of their art. The Tate Modern in London organised
an extensive survey of Gilbert & Georgeʼs art in 2007, which travelled to Munich, Turin and
then to the United States. In 2005, Gilbert & George represented Great Britain at the Venice
Biennial. The touring Jack Freak Pictures exhibition launched in 2009 has not yet concluded
its international route. And very recently, they have been made Honorary Professor of
Philosophy by London Metropolitan University.
An important two volume retrospective book accompanies the exhibition: The Complete
Postcard Art of Gilbert & George, about the use of postcards in their art. It includes a fine
text by the novelist and cultural critic Michael Bracewell.