Chapman Brothers

Young British Artists Jake and Dinos Chapman create iconoclastic sculptures, prints, and installations that examine contemporary politics, religion, and morality with searing wit. They first gained recognition with their first solo installation, We Are Artists (1992), in which they stenciled an anti-aesthetic manifesto onto a mud-splattered wall at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in London. From their etchings of Goya-esque piles of body parts to naked child mannequins whose facial features are replaced with genitalia, the Chapman brothers explore the poles of beauty and pain, humor and horror, the sublime and perverse, the diabolical and the infantile, in ways that shock and confront viewers with their own voyeurism.

Jake and Dinos Chapman
Zygotic Acceleration: Biogenetic De-sublimated Libidinal Model

Ref. Unsettling, Provocative, Contemporary Grotesque, The Abject

Unsettling. "Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters." —Francisco de Goya. Artworks with disquieting or disturbing imagery, whether of monsters or violent misfortunes, the grotesque or the abject. Well known historical examples include the works of Goya, James Ensor, and Edvard Munch. In (especially recent) contemporary practice, unsettling imagery continues to fascinate artists, including Damien Hirst and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

Provocative. Used to describe artworks that arouse strong feelings, whether because of their subject matter or technique. In perpetually challenging artistic traditions, artists have confronted issues of sexuality, race, politics, and religion, and incorporated surprising materials such as dirt or bodily fluid into their works, often facing a backlash of rejection and fierce criticism from the public. To take examples from the history of Western art, in the mid-late 19th century Gustav Courbet and Édouard Manet shocked a conservative public with paintings that irreverently combined incongruent imagery with modern painting techniques. In the 20th century artists like Marcel Duchamp continued to defy established notions of what constitutes "art" by deeming everyday objects suitable for inclusion in sculptures, or as art objects themselves. Shock value is inherent in many provocative works—take Robert Mapplethorpe’s sexually-charged photographs from the 1970s.

Contemporary Grotesque. Applied to contemporary works incorporating the grotesque, by which is traditionally meant the fantastic combination of human and animal forms; now more generally any exaggerated (and often comic) distortion of figures or designs in bizarre, disgusting, or absurd scenes.

The Abject. A term developed by feminist philosopher Julia Kristeva in her seminal essay "Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection" (1982), which explored the human reaction to the fragmented, decayed, or impure human body. Applied to works that reference functions or aspects of the body that are deemed impure or taboo—like wounds, illness, bodily fluids, and death. According to Kristeva, the corpse is the ultimate image of the abject, as it forces us to acknowledge the inevitable corruption of our own bodies. "[The corpse] is death infecting life," she explains. "Imaginary uncanniness and real threat, it beckons to us and ends up engulfing us."

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