The Brooklyn Museum’s big fall show is so big that it’s actually overwhelming.
The jarring “Gilbert and George” retrospective that opened last week is the ultimate trick of the eye, seemingly offering up the bright, shiny, happy colors of the British artistic duo’s 90-odd images.
But these works — some of them floor-to-ceiling photomontages — are anything but mindless, easy viewing on a cool fall day.
Take the colossal “Death Hope Life Fear” (pictured at right). At nearly 72 feet by 14 feet, this collection of disembodied faces and blankly staring disaffected youths fills the museum’s walls, inviting study, contemplatation, discussion — anything but relaxation.
The reason? The more you look, the more you realize that the faces in the “Death,” “Hope,” “Fear” and “Life” panels all have the same expression. (Cue the horror movie music.)
In another key work, “Fates,” young vaguely Asian men are the youths this time, but at the center of the work are, of course, the artists themselves, flashing unconvincing victory signs as they are seemingly swallowed up (into the larger global culture, perhaps?).
Such artistry is Gilbert and George’s stock in trade (see sidebar, below). Throughout the rest of the exhibition, individual photographs are superimposed on others, manipulated with copies, and then saturated with the brightest, most vibrant yellows, greens, aqua, and magentas.
The images are arranged by theme, and not until the last room do visitors find the more perverse, and controversial, works. That’s where an image of two men sit with a surprised look into the camera, perched in front of bright orange, highly detailed fecal matter.
It can, indeed, be overwhelming.
Even the artists appeared to be tiny compared to their massive works at the press preview last Thursday.
Clad in sharp wool suits — Gilbert Proesch in a khaki one with a bright red patterned tie and George Passmore in olive with a twin tie in blue — the artists themselves were on display, walking throughout their exhibit and smiling as the 10-foot-tall self-portraits on the walls dwarfed them.
They politely posed for photographs in front of the wall-posted photographs, and signed copies of the exhibit catalogue.
“Gilbert and George” runs through Jan 11, 2008 at the Brooklyn Museum [200 Eastern Pkwy at Washington Avenue in Crown Heights, (718) 638-5000]. Tickets: $8; $4, students and seniors. Hours: Saturday–Sunday, 11 am–6 pm; Wednesday–Friday, 1–5 pm. First Saturday of the month is free after 5 pm.