The Archives: Pierre et Gilles
By John Hutt
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 phrase wasn’t so reserché. They approach their work with that seemingly incompatible naïveté and cynicism that has defined so much of the 21st century. Starting in the ‘80s, romantic partners, artists, and photographers Pierre et Gilles have produced 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 fashion, Gilles painted advertisements.
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 commentaryon the over-saturated market of fashion; that is their critics.
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