Gilbert and George - Sexuality on Display at De Young

“Waiter! A cock-tail,” a phrase taken from Gilbert & George’s “Balls or The Evening Before the Morning After,” epitomizes the Beat-like, anti-conformist vibe of their exhibit at the de Young. European imports Gilbert & George fit right in the San Francisco culture of anti-censorship as they display this message in their work. Penises, spunk, feces, blood, and other elements of the body are on full display, making this exhibit not one to bring your grandmother to, but definitely one that your intellectual friends and dates would appreciate.

Images of the cross, Buddhist symbols, bombs, men in suits, and pubescent boys are found throughout the works. Color is explosively used; especially the color red, which at any moment represents violence, sex, and the body. Gilbert & George believe that “True Art comes from three main life-forces. They are—the head, the soul, and the sex.” This is what you get when you experience Gilbert & George. The focus on the body takes socially-obscene images of shit and twists them into the shape of a cross, morphing this iconic symbol into something representative of the body, something we all share. Their play with religious symbols stem from their anti-censorship credo. The words “Shitty Naked Human World” and “Fear Life Death Hope” appear in two main works and shout at you to pay attention to the body and to life.

The sexual nature of these works is apparent. Sex, censored and restricted by many religions, is celebrated by Gilbert & George—not by nude photos, but rather by focusing on the male body, its insides as well as what’s on the outside. The art is edgy and racy, but doesn’t cross over into being grotesque or obscene. Gilbert & George have something to say about society and its restrictions and this message comes across loud and clear. This is an exhibit that exemplifies everything San Francisco is known for, and one any San Franciscan should be able to appreciate. Be sure to check it out at the de Young before it closes on May 18.