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The Art Story Homepage Artists Jake and Dinos Chapman

Jake and Dinos Chapman

British Installation Artists

Jake and Dinos Chapman Photo

Born: Dinos Chapman - 1962, Jake Chapman - 1966 - Dinos Chapman - London, Jake Chapman - Cheltenham

"The more shitty, nasty, transgressive the art is, the more it kind of defines the centrifugal tolerance of a liberal society. So there's no crackdown on transgressive art, there's encouragement of it."

Jake Chapman

Summary of Jake and Dinos Chapman

Known as Les Enfants Terribles of the British art scene, Dinos and Jake Chapman have been working collaboratively to produce deliberately shocking artwork for the last 30 years. After being employed as assistants to Gilbert and George, the pair found fame as part of the Young British Artists in the 1990s. Along with Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, they were a very significant part of the movement, helping to drive it forward and contributing to its controversial reputation. Working across a range of media, but particularly well-known for their larger installations, their art is full of contradictions; thoughtful investigations of modern issues coexist with puerile humor, sexual obscenity, and graphic violence. In the style of Pop Art, themes are drawn from mass media, but the brothers also acknowledge a debt to artists such as Hieronymus Bosch and Dali as well as the Dada movement.

Key Ideas

Many of the brothers' works have their basis in the art of others, of particular inspiration are the etchings of Goya, which the Chapmans recreated in miniature in Disasters of War (1993) and as a life-size sculpture in Great Deeds Against the Dead (1994). Later, they directly appropriated original artwork, adding to and painting over the etchings of Goya, watercolors by Adolf Hitler, and 18th and 19th century oils.
The Chapmans are known for their incredible attention to detail and this is most noticeable in their miniature apocalyptic landscapes, Hell (2000) and its later recreation Fucking Hell (2008). In these, the brothers created deeply unsettling works that repel the viewer with their content, but must be appreciated for their craftmanship.
References to the pervasiveness of brand names, consumerism, and globalization feature in much of the Chapmans's work. Sometimes this is overt as in The Chapman Family Collection (2002), in which Ronald McDonald is presented as an ancient deity, or more subtle such as the inclusion of Nike trainers in many of their sculptural works involving child mannequins.
Along with other members of the YBAs, the Chapmans's work was often gleefully tasteless and the brothers seemed to set out explore the topics most likely to cause offence, relishing the controversy they created and using it is as a means of self-promotion. This purposeful provocativeness led to accusations of childishness, and worse, that their work was immoral, and even illegal, and shouldn't be on display to the public.
In a number of their pieces, the brothers have "improved" original works of art by other artists including Adolf Hitler and a range of unknown portrait painters from the 18th and 19th centuries. They also defaced a series of rare prints by Francisco Goya. Their alterations to these works were permanent and in doing this, they committed artistic vandalism, one of the ultimate taboos of the art world. Shocking as these actions are to art historians, the Chapmans have utilized this technique to make comments about violence, the role of art in society, and historical legacy, taking the themes and meanings associated with the original work and inverting or subsuming these into their own ideas.
Nazi zombies from the show at the White Cube Gallery in London (2011)

Jake and Dinos Chapmans’s work is not for the feint hearted. When it was displayed in New York, a health warning was displayed on entrance to the room. Then mayor Rudolf Giuliani dismissed it as “sick” and threatened to remove funding from the host museum. The pair’s revolting and shocking hellscapes earned them the nickname “The Brothers Grim.”

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