"The Chapman´s World at the Galerie Rudolfinum"

Posted on December 15, 2013 by UNITED PHOTO PRESS MAGAZINE



Chapman Brothers, Jake & Dinos, have brought to Galerie Rudolfinum their very specific and dark humor reflected in a showcase of depictions in a variety of media. The Prague´s exhibition is the biggest collection from Chapman Brothers ever shown in Central Europe where 5 thematic rooms introduce to the audience: sculptures, drawings, etchings, paintings and other objects which highlight the political, social, religious and moral situation of the time we live in.

Chapman Family Collection
Ricardo Praga - United Photo Press
Once you start your journey through the Galerie, the first room presents part of the “Chapman family collection”.

These are the Woodcarvings– African Fetishes. Several Bronze Sculptures resembling a collection of African art in which we find corporate elements of Fast food restaurant chains. Generally the audience might mislead reading the work thinking it is about globalization but according to the Chapman’s, the work might actually be about giving McDonalds the proper value they deserve. Everything is created in order that the viewer is not really sure what the artwork is actually about, he can only assume allowing him to create different interpretations. The Brothers have made the effort to not make a definite position to what the viewer can assume, his interpretation however might be exactly the contrary of what was meant.

Once you get into the second room, you will have the chance to see Francisco Goya´s “Disasters of War”. However this is an enhanced version re-worked by the Chapman Brothers. The collection of 83 etchings changed by JDC (Jake & Dinos Chapman) received a lot of worldwide attention due to their artistic values which seem to confront ethic values. For many, their actions were considered as only destruction and desecration of Goya´s artwork but by doing such acts seems that JDC intended to point to moral values by using a certain savage behavior to raise awareness of so many similar situations of today’s culture.

“Sex and Death” is other piece from JDC shown in the same room as Francisco Goya´s work. This piece of art can very easily make the audience confused since what very likely would be interpreted as the work “"Sex"” is in fact the work “"Death"” and what visually resembles a sex scene happening in the middle of the room is the work with name “"Death"”. That’s something that could be expected from JDC. When looking at their art nothing is what it seems. There is a continuous game about what initially the audience might think it sees and what really is.

Sex and Death / Ricardo Praga - United Photo Press
The 3rd room presents a very recent collection which has the ability to make the audience travel in time and put them just right into the middle of the Nazi regime. Once you see yourself in this room, you will be surrounded by live sized figures of Nazi officers with sort of zombie faces peering at sculptures, sodomizing each other or just simply admiring some artwork.
This might be a frightening part of the tour but once you realize that what you see is not really what you thought it was then you will unexpectedly let out a short laugh.

The following area takes us to the "“minderwertigkinder"” (Wolf Child) together with paintings and prints from the collection "“Etchasketchathon”". In this section you will find several children dressing what seems to be school uniforms with an insignia showing a swastika and the statement "“They teach us nothing"”. The children appear to be appreciating some art paintings while at the same time passing through a metamorphosis process between human and animal, recalling a very famous scene of the classic horror movie from 1984 - "The Company of Wolves". Here, clearly, we can find the evidence that old horror movies had influence within the creation process of JDC artwork.

Fucking Dinosaurus and Flock Off
Ricardo Praga - United Photo Press
To end the journey, the last room brings us the most popular JDC works from the 90s: “"Bloody Fuckface"” and “"Return of the repressed"”. According to the Brothers this work is about taking existing objects and put them together when they don´t really belong together. However in some sense they do because mannequins can be perceived as sexualized objects. The collection of mutant mannequins joins several humans into one and cross them with sex organs as complementary parts of their faces.

"The shape of things to come”" is the last work presented at the room. This is a very complex and detailed piece of art portraiting a certain moment within a battle. This work truly passes the image that war is the real hell. Here hundreds of miniature soldiers, skeletons and mutants are fighting while vultures attack randomly any kind of moving creature. Still, there is much more than that. Here, there is space for every kind of atrocity and all of them seem to be happening at that small place within that specific moment in time. Due to its complexity and dimension, this work might require some time till you get acquainted with all that is happening in front of your eyes, but that isn´t really a problem since it’s a delightful way to give a proper end to the exhibition.

According to Chapmans statements, their intention is definitely not to shock. From their perspective, if the audience feels that way, they consider these people to really have a hard time on a daily basis. For example, TV and newspapers are constantly delivering shocking content but since it's considered useful, that content is allowed. The effects of their work are not much more than that, only that they deliver their content with an artistic and theatrical form. Above all, they consider their work funny.

Although JDC brothers have always used their dark and ironic humor to create worlds which have caused brutal, intense and disturbing actions of the audience, they always remind us that the real horrors are actually happening elsewhere.

Since the exhibition entitled *“Blind Leading the Blind"* is by far the largest venue of JDC work in central Europe, this allows the audience to create a deeper conceptual view over the Chapman´s overall work based on the wide range of artworks available within a large space and by the relation that exist between each piece towards the gallery area and towards each other.
Recent works being presented with older ones resulted in an opportunity for generating different interpretations. Due to that, the Galerie Rudolfinum took the chance to document such unique moment in time by creating a catalogue, since each installation, independently from the size, build different views and perspectives about JDC artwork.

The shape of things to come / Ricardo Praga - United Photo Press
According to Mr. Otto M. Urban, the curator from the *“Blind Leading the Blind” exhibition*, when facing JDC artwork, the audience “must either think further and deeper, or simply enjoy the fun and their pitch black humor.” So, for those that will dare to embrace this experience at Galerie Rudolfinum, they can expect at least a vast and intriguing journey through the “ChapmanWorld” which will definitely make an audience think during and after the exhibition. If you don't find the tour somehow humorous, then you might end up returning back for more in order to satisfy your deeper curiosity.


Text, video and photography by Ricardo Praga: www.ricardopraga.com
Proofreaders: Cláudio Silva, Monika Ušiaková