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Come and See – a collection of works by the brothers Chapman
January 29, 2014
The Serpentine Sackler Gallery is currently filled with sordid ‘artefacts’, Nazi toys, Ronald McDonalds, f*cking animals and Ku Klux Klan members. It could only be the Chapman Brothers… but will you be offended or enlightened?
The Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London’s Hyde Park, although less than three months old, is making its mark with some great exhibitions, the latest of which is a selection of the contemporary work of Iakovos ‘Jake’ Chapman and Konstantinos ‘Dinos’ Chapman.
As soon as you enter the exhibition you are met with explicit scenes befitting the underlying theme of the Chapman brothers’ collected works. You have the option of going left into their painted bronze works, such as Little Death Machine and I Felt Insecure (ranging from 2006-2012), which consist of a plethora of brains and sexual organs connected to rubber gloves, machinery, tools and industrial equipment with a sprinkling of maggots. Or alternatively, you can turn right and enter into their four-vitrine-spanning piece The Sum Of All Evil (fibreglass, plastic and mixed media, 2012-2013), depicting acts of appalling violence and cruelty, as well as both consensual and non-consensual sexual acts between skeletal figures, Nazis, soldiers, cavemen, McDonald’s characters (notably of course, Ronald, who in one vitrine is actually shown crucified in multiple ways) and dinosaurs (naturally). You would expect nothing less from the Chapman brothers. Neither exhibit fails to both shock and draw you in as, in both cases, you need to physically walk around each installation to see all of the minuscule pieces at play within.
On the walls surrounding these displays are a vast collection of what can most accurately be described as small acts of vandalism, which make up pieces such as Not to Dot (100 x watercolour and ink on paper, 2013), in which the brothers have taken join-the-dot pages and finished them in their own way and The Disease Within The Disease (100 x watercolour and ink on various papers, 2013), where the brothers have taken pages from books and doodled, defaced and otherwise made their mark on those too. These pieces provide a very fine framework for the exhibition, along with the portraits and other period paintings that the Chapmans have made ‘improvements’ to.
While you wander around viewing the exhibition, it is prudent to note that the brothers have kindly ensured you will not be on your own. Even if nobody else is in the room, they have provided their viewers with company in the form of mannequins dressed up in Ku Klux Klan garb. Adorned with smiley face emblems and kitted out in striped fluffy socks / sandal ensembles, they are scattered throughout the gallery, admiring or, in most cases, being shocked, disturbed and seemingly horrified by the various art works.
This is most chillingly the case when you brave the black curtain to the darkened cinema installation Kino Klub (2013), which contains a small cinema with wooden chairs, some of which are populated by more of the brothers’ outraged Ku Klux Klan mannequins, a second group of which are lurking ominously in the back corner. The main feature of the room is of course the film that plays on a loop; Fucking Hell (26’ 17”, 2013). A sort-of-retrospective about both the lives of the brothers and the demise of some well-known artists; it follows artists, modelled from rubber gloves filled with liquid, meeting their ends (as they do) but also features some surprising yet brilliant performances by talented and well known actors, notably the Hollywood stars Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, The Amazing Spiderman) and David Thewlis (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gangster No. 1). But of course, since scenes of liquid-filled rubber-glove gang bangs aren’t shocking enough, the video is interspersed with (one would assume medical) footage of the interior of the human body, set to dark, ominous and occasionally unnerving musical ‘tones’. The whole thing is rather genius and genuinely entertaining, which would be somewhat surprising given the subject matter and setting if we were dealing with any other artists.
In the rest of the exhibition, the Chapmans’ classic use of the McDonald’s brand continues with their bronze statues of the famous characters and the impressively sized woollen piece Axminster Of Evil (2008). The Shitrospective of their earlier work, which includes reproductions of such pieces as Great Deeds Against The Dead (1994) in cardboard, shows that not even their own work escapes their mockery. Woodland creatures also get the dark fairy tale treatment from the Brothers Chapman, entering into a taxidermic chain gang bang in Fucking With Nature (Somewhere Between Tennis Elbow and Wanker’s Cramp) (Mixed Media and Painted Wood, 2013). This seems to quite nicely (well maybe not ‘nicely’) wrap up the feel of the show and what the brothers seem to want to portray through their work; as it was so eloquently put on one of their doodled works – ‘Fuck It’.
Words by Christopher Canaway
Jake and Dinos Chapman: Come and See runs until Sunday 9th February. For more information go to serpentinegalleries.org