Two of the art world’s biggest and most controversial stars, British sibling duo Jake and Dinos Chapman, descend on Montreal with their exhibition Come and See, installed in all its disturbing, thought-provoking and darkly humourous glory at Old Montreal’s DHC/ART until August 31…
DHC/ART is no stranger to world-renowned names or the provocative in art, hosting numerous acclaimed exhibitions in the past several years by artists such as Christian Marclay, Jenny Holzer, Sophie Calle, Ryoji Ikeda, Thomas Demand and John Currin. Yet the extensive Jake and Dinos Chapman exhibition puts the gallery and gallery-goers in the position of questioning not only what art is but what purpose it holds. Conceived in partnership with the Serpentine Galleries of London, Come and See marks Jake and Dinos Chapman’s first major solo exhibition in North America and provides a kind of overview of the artists, who have been collaborating since the early 1990s in sculpture, painting, printmaking, film, music and literature. The exhibition greets us in DHC/ART’s lobby with irreverence: three immense and looming black banners, each adorned with one white smiley face. From there on in, things become more strange.
Walking through the gallery’s two spaces – four floors in one building and the other a more-sprawling single level – the work on display prompts questions about the purpose of art, let alone this experimental, subversive art. Does art in the 21st century seek to entertain and distract us in its reflections of the world? Or force us to peer into what we don’t want to see – violence, war-mongering, bigotry, anti-intellectualism – and moralize about it? Is it possible to show us something we’ve never seen before? Or is artistic creation now merely a rehashing of familiar tropes? Is art still about something more romantic and seemingly by-gone: the pursuit of beauty and truth? Or is art just a joke?
Almost carnivalesque in its approach, the exhibition weaves from intense, dramatic and grotesque one moment to purposely silly, childlike and makeshift the next. We see an impressively-constructed army of skeletal Nazis joined by Ronald McDonald figurines in a muddy, blood-soaked battlefield, all held under glass. Six-foot-tall KKK members in typical white robes and headgear, wearing wooly rainbow socks and sandals. A children’s play carpet emblazoned with friendly characters and words of sweetness and light. Bronze statues of corporate symbols parallelled in another room by cardboard sculptures slapped with paint. All are criticisms, in one way or another, of consumer culture, humanity and morality, and the art history cannon.
While violence and the oddly beatific (a series of small black-and-white abstract drawing entrances, for instance) stand side-by-side in the exhibition, several pieces seem too dark to hold any hope. Yet Jake and Dinos Chapman don’t intend for everyone to come away from the exhibition with a common understanding: for some, it may disturb or offend, while for others, it may enlighten and inspire. Several interpretations seem within the exhibition’s realm of intention, part of why the artists have provoked controversy. Further insights into the Chapman Brothers’ work, can be certainly be found on the gallery’s tours with exhibition curator, Cheryl Sim – held on May 29 and July 19 at 6 pm, in English. Tours are free, as is admission to the gallery at all times.
Jake & Dinos Chapman: Come and See, May 29 to August 31, 2014
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