The Sum of All Evil: solo exhibition with Jake & Dinos Chapman
White Cube Hong Kong (50 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong). May 22, 2013 – Aug 31, 2013
(See also: Jake & Dinos Chapman 2 — The Restaurant at the End of Modernity by Chris Moore)
The centerpiece of Jake and Dinos Chapman’s latest exhibition was four large glass vitrines, each containing a veritable orgy of filth, violence, death and destruction. Entitled “The Sum of All Evil,” the cast of the Chapman brothers’ installation is an assemblage of minute plastic figures, a child’s army of Nazi soldiers and corpses engaged in Boschian acts of wanton hellishness. Ronald McDonald is crucified constantly in a dead tree-forest-concentration-camp. A stegosaurus buttfucks a rhino. Those of a religious persuasion need not worry too much, as God is also present – or at least the lower half of him is. In one of the vitrines, our eyes follow his Nike Air trainers up his legs, which are covered in needles – perhaps spears thrown by the victims of his creation down below; at the crown above, a sad, flaccid, uncircumcised cock emerges from a thick forest of pubic hair. The ground is comprised wholly of dead corpses in a varying degrees of dismemberment, defilement and decay.
The fun continues in the upstairs gallery, where four smaller boxlike vitrines have been installed. In one, “Ronald Goes Fishing,” Ronald McDonald fishes off a dilapidated wooden pier into a gooey gelatinous lake filled with dead bodies. In one with the almost-funny title of “Nein! Eleven?”, two breast-like, conical mounds of dead Nazi corpses emerge from a mess of the same. Continuing the Chapman bros’ hijacking and “reworking” of found art (they famously mutilated several of Goya’s etchings in their 2003 work “Insult to Injury”), the exhibition also includes six oil canvases by anonymous artists. Originally traditional portraits, the Chapman brothers have “improved” them by rendering all sorts of violence on the subjects. One, a bearded figure that somewhat resembles Karl Marx, has a freshly punched left eye and a bloody gash in the forehead. Most have had the skin on their faces removed to reveal underlying demonic deformities.
We can only congratulate the Chapmans for successfully harvesting some of the best bad taste in all of art history, though admittedly, it is starting to feel more than a bit contrived. It’s clear that the point is very much an ad nauseam extension of adolescence. But the pseudo-outsider overuse of McDonald’s as a symbol of the evils of global capitalism is a little too obvious at this point; it is, after all, an emblem that has also been selected by every suburban teenage punk band for the last thirty years. Shock art can also be clever and subtle; while the Chapmans’ work – especially “The Sum of All Evil,” with its awesome attention to detail – is occasionally well layered, the brothers lack the campy flair of a John Waters, to name but one example of someone who has consistently done it smarter. Still, whatever doubts one might harbor about the obviousness of deploying Hitler and Ronald McDonald as stock illustrations of “evil” quickly melt away when faced with the awesome spectacle of the endeavor. I just hope that next time, the Chapman Brothers will manage to do it even worse.