The term YBA is understandably associated with controversial art, but of all the artists of that generation it is Jake and Dinos Chapman who seem to take the most enjoyment out of deliberately creating ‘bad taste’ art. The Serpentine Sackler gallery is packed full of their drawings and paintings as well as an assortment of what can only be described as hippy Klansmen.
Men in white pointy headed robes with rainbow socks fill the gallery and visitors are invited to sit amongst them in a central cinema and watch a ludicrously surreal film. The Chapman brothers are a bit like an edgy comedian – sometimes they offend, other times they miss the mark but when they land on a winning formula it’s something special.
In this case it’s their large vitrines populated with hundreds of individual characters which are the best works here. These feature Nazi skeletons, piles of dead bodies in a McDonalds, dinosaurs and many Ronald McDonalds being crucified. The scenes are ridiculous yet superbly detailed and enthralling enough to justify a visit by themselves.
Over in the classic Serpentine gallery is video artist Wael Shawky’s three films. The newest work tells a mythological tale but is nowhere near as engrossing as the videos either side starring strangely proportioned marionettes. They tell the story of the crusades from a point of view that shows nearly all the rulers involved as flawed characters.
The use of puppets makes the films seem childish at first but as scenes of betrayal, mass murder and infanticide take place it makes the vicious nature of these wars hit home even harder. The difficulty with Shawky’s work is that they all vary in length between 30 and 60 minutes, which is a long time to dedicate to an art gallery for most viewers.
Despite their respective flaws both exhibitions are impressive in their own rights, whether it be for the absurdity of the Chapman Brothers or the engrossing storytelling of Wael Shawky.