Attacks, murder, shooting, crack, porn, paedo, kills – all words that feature in the newspaper headlines that form the basis of Gilbert and George’s 2011 London Picture series on show at two of the White Cube galleries (Mason’s Yard and Bermondsey) until 12 May. Headlines are by their very nature shocking and sensationalist, and these posters picked from newsagents over six years form a lurid portrait of the capital city. This is not the London that the Olympics marketing team want to publicise, a city of crime and mystery.
The dimensions of the work range from multiples of four standard tabloids to thirty-six, all in black and white with a key word picked out in red. In the bottom corner, each one has a different picture of the Queen, taken from a real coin and blown up to show her image scratched and battered by life’s daily grind. And behind the headlines, lurk the familiar faces of the artists. At times they are blurred by reflections in car doors, or they peer through bricks, through lace curtains or stare out of magnifying glasses, observers of modern life. The exhibition is arresting in its starkness, and the way it plays with layers of interpretation, but only the scale makes it more interesting to see in real life. These don’t look like works that will grow on you.