Rather like Ant and Dec, it’s hard to tell which Chapman brother is which, such is their twenty -year collaboration taking them to the top of the art world and making them one of its most celebrated duos. But unlike the cheeky TV pair, Jake and Dinos, have, for the first time, gone their seperate ways. No-one to cover the other’s back! Or finish their sentences! What will happen?? The art world has been gripped in anticipation.
Jake and Dinos Chapman present their show at both White Cube sites, Masons Yard and Hoxton, and the big question is: which brother’s done what? But it’s an open secret. In Mason’s Yard Jake cocks a snook at Nazis; in Hoxton Dinos says “up yours” to Catholics.
And the result is that the show, rather like Britain’s Got Talent is exactly what you’d expect. The brothers have a common visual language and pre-occupation with the same themes: bug-eyed gargoyles, hell, childhood innocence violated, the absurdity of evil, blasphemy. But we’ve seen this before, many times. The slavering, screaming faces; the deformed insects; the duck-billed kiddies – it’s white-bread revulsion; jock-shock for suits. Actually, BGT is often more disturbing.
Yes, some of the exhibition is harrowing – Jake’s work particularly. Not, though, his room of skinless, grimacing, life-sized SS mannequins. They’re complete with smiley faces on their arms instead of Swastikas, sinews stretched and eyeballs popping, pointing and scratching their chins at the art on the walls. The whole Nazi/ art question springs to mind; also the view that art dealers and buyers are like Nazi idiots. A couple of them are casually buggering each other. Of course they are.
Neither is it the towering Ku Klux Klan mannequin, with Greenpeace- rainbow woolly socks, Jesus sandals and a hard-on. He’s having a wonderful time, clearly, as he muses over a painting of a crucifixion scene, strangely pedestrian despite its knarled and deformed creatures.
No, the eighty etchings on the back wall are better – Goya’s Disasters of War, re-worked by Jake with daubs of black ink, completely wiping some of them out. The horrors and personal tragedy of war.
Further, the join-the-dots, cartoonesque drawings of Dumbo, rabbits and other ickle fluffly creatures are kiddy-sinister, but only really come alive when you know the titles: “ In my tortured ears these sounds increasingly a nightmare whirring and flapping, and a faint distant baying as of some gigantic hound,” being one. He’s playing with us, clearly, but it works.
Upstairs, a room of 47 painted cardboard sculptures are much more interesting, although less rip-roaring. They go in another direction and are reminiscent of Picasso’s revolutionary Cubist period – beautifully composed toilet-roll holders, cotton buds and lettuce boxes airily put together.
Over at Hoxton, Dinos has a saint with a bleeding mouth, a reptilian angel and a crowd of Chuckie-like children with snouts and whiskers, around a painting of a rabbit. Innocence lost. But it’s all a bit, well, childish. It would get three buzzes, that’s for sure, and one can only imagine Amanda’s face.
The Chapman brothers don’t give a monkey’s what the public think ( “F*** the public,” says Dinos in one recent interview ) but like many siblings, are more concerned with impressing each other. They also love to take the piss out of the art world, us and themselves and don’t hold much truck with anyone who has an emotional reaction to their work.
But aren’t they getting a bit long in the tooth to keep on with the same old schtick? It’s quite witty, and a talking point, and at times thought-provoking, but with their skill and creativity they could do a whole lot more.
Maybe presenting I’m a Celebrity as a modern hell, complete with kangaroo-bollocked creatures and spider-covered, bug-eyed has-beens? Now that’s a show that would be worth tuning in to. Mind you, could they pull off the Geordie accents?
Jake or Dinos Chapman, White Cube , 25-26 Mason’s Yard, SW1Y 6BU and 48 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6PB 15 July – 17 September 2011
Image Credit : Jake or Dinos Chapman
© the artists
Photo: Ben Westoby
Courtesy White Cube