Gilbert & George: The Dirty Words Pictures, 1977

Serpentine Gallery 6 Jun — 1 Sep 2002 Free

Originally exhibited in three groups in Amsterdam, Düsseldorf and New York in 1977 and 1978, all 26 pictures of Gilbert & George’s The Dirty Words Pictures (1977) were brought together at the Serpentine Gallery for the first time.

The Dirty Words Pictures juxtapose graffiti swear words and slogans with disturbing images of urban life and the bleak presence of the artists themselves. Relentlessly exploring aspects of 20th century turmoil, the pictures reveal much about the changing face of urban living and shifting attitudes towards sexuality.

Gilbert & George used the microcosm of London’s East End to represent society at large. In stark black, white and red, these challenging pictures asked many questions of the viewer, such as: What is more obscene – expletives or social injustices? The Serpentine Gallery exhibition provided a unique and timely opportunity to review the importance and resonance of The Dirty Words Pictures, as well as Gilbert & George’s influence on a younger generation of artists.

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