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Gilbert & George

London galleries: Gilbert & George get horny in White Cube debut

Painting pushed into new places at Victoria Miro and The Approach and seismic shifts at asprey jacques as the Chapmans explore their feminine side at Modern Art

Gilbert & George are often to be found livening up parties at White Cube2 with first-hand reminiscences of when Hoxton Square was best known for nocturnal encounters of a sexual rather than an artistic nature. Maybe it was these memories that inspired the “New horny pictures” that are unveiled this month in Gilbert & George’s first solo show since the duo left Anthony D’Offay for White Cube just over a year ago. To find out what lies behind these text pieces, in which the lowly small ad is increased to monumental proportions, Gilbert & George will be revealing all in next month’s Artist’s Interview.

Around the same time as Gilbert & George were launching their lifelong career as “Living sculpture” on the other side of the Atlantic, Vito Acconci was using, and abusing, his body as the source and subject matter of his art. This month some of his classic early performance and photopieces of the 70s can be seen at 11 Duke Street in a rare UK showing of one of contemporary art’s most important and influential figures.

When Udomsak Krisnamis moved from Thailand to America a decade ago, he taught himself English by reading the daily newspapers and crossing out all the words that he knew. These obliterations, where what is known becomes concealed and what is unknown forms optically alluring abstract patterns, remain at the core of his practice.

Krisanamis, who has his second solo show at Victoria Miro this month, is now internationally renowned for his richly textured, collaged paintings, which take thousands of words from newspaper text and black out all but the negative spaces within such letters as 9,8,0 or b. Both arbitrary and systematic, highly specific and richly associative, these works have an originality and a communicative power that extends way beyond fragments of the printed word.

A very different exploration of the parameters of painting is to be found at The Approach where three new large constructions by Dan Coombs show that, since he took the plunge and allowed his paintings to burst out into three dimensions, he has become ever more audacious in orchestrating toys, appliances and furniture into action-packed combinations.

However, despite a multitude of strange encounters between these disparate objects, they are all bound back into an overall formal coherence by his strict painter’s eye.

In Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the black spot was the mark of death and in his new “Black spot” series of Polaroid photographs on show at Lisson, Douglas Gordon uses his right hand to take 13 photographs of his left, whose palm bears this dread portent. Blown up to nearly four feet in height, and paraded across a black-painted wall, these displayed stigmata are redolent with doom; and the sense of melodramatic horror is further heightened by an accompanying video in which a hand repeatedly swipes and smothers the lens of the camera that is filming it.

There is a lighter, more absurdist view of art and artistry in the Lisson’s concurrent presentation of “The last clown” by Francis Alys, in which paintings, drawings and an artist-made animation all revolve round a single incident in which a man accidentally trips over the tail of a dog and falls to the ground. The animation, in which the fall is repeated again and again, is set to jazzed-up version of circus music, punctuated by canned laughter; and when this soundtrack is piped into the street outside, the effect is rather more disquieting.

Forces, both geological and artistic, are brought to bear in the landscapes of Tania Kovats. She is best known for sculptures that evoke suggestively rocky forms—cliffs, gorges, coastlines—and which, although they are fabricated from artificial substances such as fibreglass and MDF, appear to have been eroded, rather than made. Boundaries between art and nature are explored in Kovats’ current show at asprey jacques which includes a sculpture based on a geological simulator of tectonic movement which, in turn, she has used to produce a series of “squeezed” sculptures from layered clay, lead, wax and plasticine. Prices range from £15,000 for the “Mountain machine”, to £550 for “Driften”, a printed geological map of an invented island, which is in an edition of 50.

There is more unsettling of British landscape traditions over at PercyMiller Gallery, where Simon Willems paints bucolic scenes based on the grounds of an abandoned Victorian mental hospital in West Sussex. Here, there is no refuge in nature, but, instead, a prevailing atmosphere of disease and decay, rendered by a palette of sickly pale pinks, purples, greys and greens; and surfaces that are prone to erupting into blistered empasto.

However, for a vision of nature and/or culture gone horribly, viley, repellently wrong, you can always count on the Chapman Brothers to out-gross anyone else’s gross-out. Donning new girlie alter egos for their “special guest appearance” in the more intimate surroundings of Modern Art (they are represented by White Cube) “Jackie and Denise Chapwoman” have produced some deliciously nasty little mutoid moggies, in which the Hallmark Greeting card is given a good seeing- to, and every possible permutation of the word “pussy” is explored in both title and content. The cost of these foul felines is £20,000.

Simon Periton is the man who put the doily into the art gallery—even if his doilies were somewhat out of the ordinary, being vast, frequently fluorescent and composed out of such unexpected elements as anarchist gunmen, Hieronymus Bosch owls and obscure elements of art nouveau design. For his second solo show at Sadie Coles, Periton is still snipping and wielding the scalpel, but now, rather than being subsumed into repeated patterns, he is allowing his eclectic range of appropriated images to take centre stage: his new paper cutouts include an unholy alliance of Iggy Pop with the Turin Shroud, and a piece that fuses the Dalai Lama with the “Laughing cavalier”.

Finally, at Cover Up, Ed Allington takes two of Western society’s most fetishised status symbols: the Harley Davidson, that luxury item for the middle-aged rebel, and the artist’s multiple, the work of art at its most easily-consumable. He combines the two in an editioned sculptural multiple, specially designed to be bolted onto the engine block of the Harley and available in bronze (edition of 18) for £450 or painted aluminium for £150. Grenville Davey’s circular ceramic multiples are a different kind of desirable plaything, being twistable like Rubik cubes and screenprinted with the image of a fiddling hand. In an edition of 20, these can adorn your desk and provide hours of fruitless fun for £400.