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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Established Artist Pierre et Gilles: On the Authenticity of Plastic

Above Portrait and all images ©Courtesy of the artists and Galerie Daniel Templon In his Metamodernist Manifesto, Luke Turner defined philosophy as a 'Pragmatic romanticism unhindered by an ideological anchorage.'Pierre et Gilles' work could be described as such, if the term wasn’t so reserché. They approach their work with that seemingly incompatible naivety and cynicism that has defined so much of the 21st century. Starting in the 80s, Pierre et Gilles, romantic partners, artists, photographers, produce hand painted hyperreal photographs that at once mirror, mock, examine and fantasize the shiny plasticity of fashion photography. Pierre Commoy is a photographer, Gilles Blanchard is a painter. Pierre worked in fashi

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Pierre et Gilles: Icare, Oiseau Meneur, 2013 & Le Fruit Défendu, 2011

Their work is unashamedly plastic, but haute couture plastic, laboriously handmade plastic, the finest and most fantastic plastic! Every review of Pierre et Gilles speaks about their combination of irony, detachment, post-modernism, baroque and the seemingly opposed forces of kitsch, sparkles, shining perfect bodies, and self portraits that have been heavily doctored to look flawless. But where is the evidence of an inherent irony? Looking at their work, all you see is exactly what Pierre et Gilles want you to see. Their work features: faces looking into the distance like a Kraftwerk cover! Shining bodies! Blank expressions! Fabulous costumes! Rhinestones! Underwater spacemen! Hairless soccer players and their penises! Sexy men! Sexy people in general! Smooth bright colors! (hello) Sailors! Religious iconography! There is not, however, any evidence of ironic detachment or cynicism other than the time period in which they were created. It is not Pierre or Gilles who say their overpriced kitsch  is a commentary on the over-saturated market of fashion; that is their critics.

Ophélie, 2012

Pierre et Gilles, Ophélie, 2012

Pierre et Gille are naïve and sweet. As a society we are jaded and bitter, and we assume this must always be reflected in our art. It is perhaps impossible or unrealistic to think that a viewer can genuinely derive pleasure from looking at Jean-Paul Gaultier smiling and holding flowers. You see, the flowers and the painting; they are a condemnation of society’s tacit acceptance of the horrors around the world. By showing Gaultier in a childlike self-portrait, Pierre et Gilles expertly critique their society, throwing light on all that is frivolous and exposing it to the world.

This is wrong. One should look at Pierre et Gille as if they are creating something that is aesthetically beautiful, funny, and sparkly because they want to create something that is beautiful, funny, and sparkly. There is no shame in authenticity, not everything has to be a critique of our larger failures. Jean-Paul Gaultier is holding flowers and smiling, surrounded by a border of flowers and wearing a sailor shirt because Jean-Paul Gaultier likes flowers, likes pastels, and loves sailor shirts. He sits in childlike wonder because it is slightly funny, adorable, and shows his worldview –surrounded by purposefully temporal beauty. The models are shirtless, hairless men and slim intense eyed women because that is what Pierre et Gilles thinks is sexy and should be put on a canvas with some sparkles. This aesthetic is acceptable in fashion, but when applied to photography and painting it is only accepted if it is done with some kind of ironic detachment. This is not fair. Pierre Gilles are not hiding anything, this is their world, this is their art. The work is authentic to itself.

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Pierre et Gilles, Léonidas, 2014

Text by John Hutt

 

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