Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gilbert and George at MAM

I like to take the occasional day trip to Chicago, once a year or so and the MCA is always a stop on these trips, regardless of what was showing there. A few years back Gilbert and George's exhibit made this trip to the MCA somewhat dissappointing, and rather unremarkable. When i heard G+G were coming to my town i yawned, and planned to re-examine the work in light of recent changes in my perspectives on art.

The insight of years and greater sophistication has turned my yawn into a bigger yawn and a head shake of bored disapproval.

My reading of Gilbert and George's art is: they're a couple of art students who when studying Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol decided they wanted to do the "my personality as a work of art itself" thing, and then they got shitfaced a lot and went on to do that thing, really really shallowly, but big enough that they'd get attention. These guys are a testament to the idea that alchohol and art school dampen creativity. Their large format photographs encounter issues in the most shallow and unengaging way. This is our poop. Are you shocked? Don't you poop too? What are we, preschoolers?

The sad thing is, this show (like endgame at the rep) is another awkward attempt by a large Milwaukee institution to earn some credibility by doing "provocative" art and botching it terribly. All the advertisements for the show say "brace yourself" and push the "are you angry or are you boring?" message. Traditional patrons to the museum are well-warned that they'll be offended by what they see, and people who are looking for art that speaks uncompromisingly about issues that concern them are supposed to be intrigued by these advertisements.

But Gilbert and George's work is rude enough to offend the squares without being intelligent or relevant enough to engage the enthusiasts. No one goes away happy. There are binders full of comment cards left by the veiwers of the exhibit. Most of what i saw of these cards were either: admonishing the art museum for presenting this filth, or completely bored and derogatory toward it. If the MAM is going to inspire new patrons or engage young people in art, then it needs to take a risk, and be willing to sacrifice some of the traditional patrons whose tastes are mutually exclusive with art that actually engages it's viewers.

No comments: