Gilbert & George are back at the White Cube in Bermondsey, their last exploration south of the river being “Scapegoating” in 2014. Some of the same themes are here, such as everyday life with the post office and security companies. But this exhibition is different. They have taken the theme of beards, which for some reason are currently fashionable (about a century after they were also the height of fashion). Do they represent modern culture? If you can’t grow a beard, can you apply one and join the bearded tribes? Do beards have to be black or white, can they be sustainable and green? Gilbert & George explore all options in their usual inimitable style.
Do people hide behind beards or do they provide a new form of expression? Why has it become such a prevalent part of modern culture?
Gilbert & George have taken their trademark style, with gridded rectangular images and twisted it in new ways, one of which a new green and sustainable view of life. Plants and leaves in a variety of green and autumnal colours break through the traditional black, red and white images. Gilbert and George are in the jungle, but is it a natural one, or an urban one, given the addition of barbed wire and other sinister images? What sort of jungle do we live in and, if you have a beard, what does it mean to you?
The basic images are powerful. The exhibition however then loses the plot with the entrance hall and gallery full of shorty witty phrases focussed on the word f..k. This is so 20th century – the world has moved on and Gilbert & George should do so as well. They don’t need this any more. They are better than that.