The work of the Chapman brothers is often darkly humorous, hostile, and subversive, and the artists are cited as describing viewers’ laughter and reaction to their works as more significant than the work itself. In addition to their dioramas, the Chapmans are known for their mannequin-like sculptural works, which often resemble conjoined Barbie dolls and feature genitalia in unexpected places. By finding inspiration in both high culture and mass culture, such as Hieronymus Bosch (Flemish, c.1450-1516) and McDonald’s fast food, the Chapmans bring both gravity and comedy to their work. The three hell souvenirs exhibited here are perfect examples of the Chapman’s most recent work, which encompasses the influences mentioned above.
The second work exhibited in Shallow then Halo is a selection of six drawings from the series ‘’the man without qualities’’.
The chosen works are watercolours made by Adolf Hitler, acquired by the Cahapmans and then modified: the idyllic landscapes and cute realistic environments drawn by the dictator are embellished by the duo with little clouds, rainbows and sketches of the sun. By drawing on Hitler drawings, the Chapman brothers play with double intentions: on the one hand, they ruin what is considered to be a historical document and challenge therefor the idea of the purity of the official archive of history, something widely shared by the academic community and governmental or artistic institutions. On the other hand, by adding childish little sketches to what is already a pretty innocent landscape, they emphasize the contrast between the sweetness of the subject matter and its maker, a man considered to be among the most evil persons to have ever lived.
The irony of the gesture hides a certain playfulness, as the artists themselves admit: ‘’ The idea of Hitler turning in his grave because we painted rainbows on his pictures is fantastically pleasurable’’.
Brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman (British, b.1966; b.1962) are sculptors, printmakers, and installation artists who work together as a duo. Having graduated from the Royal College of Art in London in 1990, their first critical success was Disasters of War (1991), a diorama-like sculptural piece comprised of reclaimed plastic figurines arranged to resemble the scene from the Francisco de Goya (Spanish, 1746-1828) painting of the same name. They are now known as two of the main protagonists of the YBA movement, one of the most important artistic currents of recent art history.
Their art has been exhibited in venues around the world, such as the Gagosian Gallery in New York, the White Cube Gallery in London, the Tate Britain in London, the Triumph Gallery in Moscow, and PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York, among many others. The artists live and work in London.
-Text by Sara van Bussel