Gilbert and George Brighten the High Line Art Billboard with Vibrant Colors

by Kat Widing


Photo by Laura Bjorstad

The High Line Art Billboard is back in action, sporting Gilbert & George’s Waking (1984) next to the High Line at West 18th Street. With luminous colors and thick black outlined figures, the semi-mirrored composition of faces and bodies recalls the look of a stained glass window. Gilbert & George stand confidently in the center of the billboard, with their hands clasped in front of them, surrounded by mask-like faces and a line-up of young men. Taken together with the title, the scene suggests a sort of inner awakening in the passage from boyhood to manhood supported by the inclusion of various age groups.


Photo by Timothy Schenck, Courtesy of Friends of the High Line

The infamous artistic duo Gilbert & George have been collaborating since they met in 1967 at the St. Martin’s School in London. The two British artists merged their identities so completely that they have no surnames, no individual biographies, and no separate bodies of work. Throughout their joint career, Gilbert & George have attempted to erase the distinction between art and life, adopting the slogan “Art for All.” As students they explored this concept by becoming “living sculptures,” walking the streets of London covered head to toe in metallic make-up like the spray-painted street performers in New York. In doing so, they pushed viewers to reconsider the relationship between art and life in modern society. Since then, Gilbert & George have produced a variety of projects including printed media, film, photography, performance installation, and sculpture.


Photo by Timothy Schenck, Courtesy of Friends of the High Line

Gilbert & George, Waking, 1984. Part of High Line Billboard, on view September 3 – October 1, 2013. Installation view, Edison ParkFast, West 18th Street at 10th Avenue, New York.  Courtesy of Friends of the High Line.



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