Jake and Dinos Chapman: Come and See

Come and See is the title of Jake and Dinos Chapman’s newest exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington Gardens, London. It’s an inviting label, but one that is inherently mischievous because what you are gaining access to is not altogether pleasant. Though, if you know of their work, that is hardly a revelation.
Many years on from their introduction to the art scene in the early 1990s – Young British Artists forever more – the siblings have remained committed to studying, examining, depicting and critiquing the “underbelly of things”.
This exhibition is demonstrative of that. The work on show, past and present, old and new, is belligerent, macabre, and dark, yet very, very funny. Perhaps because some of it is so surreal – skeletons with helmets battling a dinosaur – the otherwise violent images are transformed into something less horrific.
In that sense, there is something childlike about the Chapman brothers’ work – they have admitted before that they have a very youthful way of looking at the world – and it is this comedy that helps give it a less savage aesthetic.
“Whether subverting artists’ original works – including their own – twisting historic narratives or peeling back the surface of consumer-driven culture to reveal the horror and humour that lies beneath, the Chapmans compel us to confront the nagging fears that lie at the dark heart of the Western psyche,” the gallery explains.
“Their use of film, music and literature as well as painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture anticipated the multi-disciplinary approach of the 89 plus generation for whom they are heroes and trailblazers. We are thrilled that they are exhibiting at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery this winter.”
For all their wit then, the subtext of their work is very serious, viewable as a damning critique of the way history has unfolded since the enlightenment. Western philosophy was meant to emancipate, empower and enlighten, yet, that hasn’t necessarily been true.
Along with rapid technological and scientific progress, the perpetuation of gross inequalities has continued. In fact, it has been amplified. Though they do see beauty in humanity – they get to do what they do by virtue of existing in a relatively free and progressive society – the sum total of existence is somewhat incongruous.
“We offer a very good social service to our patrons and employers, who are the bourgeois intelligentsia,” Jake told the Financial Times recently. “Our little antics and our melodramas and our psychodramas furnish the bourgeoisie with the sense that their world is radical and dangerous and audacious and all these big nice words. It’s what art expresses for them.”
Jake and Dinos Chapman: Come and See at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery runs until February 9th 2014.
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