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Imperfect Pearl: Contemporary Baroque in the Works of Jake and Dinos Chapman

Date and time
Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Imperfect Pearl: Contemporary Baroque in the Works of Jake and Dinos Chapman

DHC/ART Education has created a pedagogical tool, Jake and Dinos Chapman: Movements, a four-part series that explores key concepts present in the exhibition Come and See: reification, grotesque/carnival, Baroque and collaboration. This week, we are presenting part 3 of this series: the Baroque.

Intensity. Dramatic emotion. Tension. These and other elements of the Baroque are recalled in the works of Jake and Dinos Chapman. In their extravagance and by “[c]ombining horror, humour, and careful craftsmanship with social commentary, [the Chapmans’] provocative work incorporates the essence of the seventeenth century Baroque [1].” Theirs is an aesthetic of excess and confrontation with regard to subject matter and approach, of course, but also materials and scale.

Bronze, wood, wool and digital technologies, not to mention cardboard and paint, are just a few of the materials with which the Chapman brothers experiment. Their approach to using these materials is either exquisitely precise and meticulous, or intentionally and excruciatingly juvenile. In Shitrospective, the Chapmans recreated a selection of their work from over the past twenty years by using simple materials that are fragile and vulnerable at best, and pathetic and vulgar at worst. In what
is perhaps one of their most humorous pieces, works that are quite potent in their original form are transformed into innocent cardboard cutouts.

In Sum of All Evil, colossal atrocities and violence are shrunk down into miniature figurines. A scale that one would normally associate with innocence and playfulness is in effect a gory and cyclical game of death and torture. Viewers peer over the repulsive figures and morose scenes with a privileged bird’s eye view. We are removed from their glass encasings; we are not a part of their misery and torment. And yet to really see the works, we have no choice but to approach and have (if only spatially) an intimate interaction. Once in close contact, we are thrown off our guard yet again as we are confronted by gigantic, hairy, repulsive legs (God’s legs, allegedly); two gargantuan columns towering over the minuscule scene. Confrontational and eccentric on all accounts, the ‘contemporary Baroque’ is present and thriving in the excessive worlds created by Jake and Dinos Chapman.

The term ‘Baroque’ derives from Spanish “barroco” meaning “imperfect pearl.” What is the significance of this term? In what ways could this expression be used to describe the Chapmans’ work?

Many of the Chapmans’ works in Come and Seepresent a thought-provoking relationship between material and subject matter. Little Death Machine(castrated, ossified), for example, is a sculpture that is made of bronze, and then painted. Why do you think the Chapmans covered the bronze sculpture with paint? What other works create a particular kind of dialogue because of the materials used?

About Movements: 

Movements is a tool designed by DHC/ART Education to encourage in-depth explorations of key concepts evoked by the works presented in the exhibition Come and See. By highlighting these points of conceptual departure through the document Movements, the DHC/ART educators intend to inspire dialogue about the exhibition and to encourage visitors to elaborate on the proposed themes with their personal interpretations and reflections. Over time, these travelling concepts are subsequently enriched as they inform new contributions to our evolving conversations about art.

Movements also serves as a reminder that an aesthetic experience engages the body – its senses and its movements – as much as the intellect. The body’s physical, emotional, and perceptive gestures are intimately linked as we move through the exhibition space and our senses are awakened. The rhythm of our trajectories and changing perspectives also mobilize our vision; images take shape as our memory and imagination are touched by the emerging aesthetic landscape. Movements is thus an invitation for the visitor to become immersed – mind and body – into DHC/ART exhibitions, thereby developing a rich and dynamic understanding of the works.

[1] BALDISSERA, Lisa and Lee HENDERSON (2009). Peculiar Culture: The Contemporary Baroque, Luanne Martineau, Jake and Dinos Chapman.Victoria: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Photo: Jake and Dinos Chapman. The Sum of All Evil. Detail. 2012-2013. Courtesy of White Cube.

 

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