Installation view of “Gelatin Gelitin Gelintin” at Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong, 2016. Courtesy Galerie Perrotin. 

Gelatin Gelitin Gelintin


Galerie Perrotin
Hong Kong

The Vienna-based group, Gelitin (formerly Gelatin), exhibiting internationally since 1993, is notorious for their bold performances and shock tactics. They inspire laughter and sheepish grins—a reaction not unlike that of gasping crowds mortified by children yelling “P*nis!” in public. Indeed, the abundance of exposed male genitilia in Gelitin’s works throughout their oeuvre is not for the faint-hearted. Comprising four enfants terribles, Ali Janka, Florian Reither, Tobias Urban and Wolfgang Gantner, who met in a summer camp in 1978, the group creates mischievous art that recalls testosterone-filled experimentations of fraternity boys. Galerie Perrotin’s Hong Kong retrospective of Gelitin surveys the collective’s development over the last 20 years and includes a dark video screening area with black walls dedicated to viewers above 18 years old, where short clips of Gelitin’s projects are shown. Similar to the dim interior of adult cinema, the space also has a daily screening of the newly released full-length film “Whatever Happened to Gelitin” (2016) by German filmmaker Angela Christlieb.

Humor and spontaneity are the essential ingredients in Gelitin’s collaborative art practice, and the Austrian artist group is known for their merciless parodies. In 2007, they began creating the “Mona Lisa” series (2007–10), transforming the cryptic female figure into various versions of psychedelic distortion. By asserting the freedom to mold and sculpt playful versions of the work, Gelitin subverts the work’s authority. In Gelitin’s interpretation, in Mona Lisa (2007), the disfigured subject’s wrinkled plasticine face has two crater-like depressions gauged out, containing two lopsided mint-green eyes. Other works in this series share the same textured aesthetic, resembling bubble gum or mashed potatoes, occasionally covered in glitter. While the artist group satirizes the canonical artwork, it is also not the first time the Mona Lisa (1503–04) has been the subject of ridicule. In the late 18th century, artist Eugène Bataille made a comical work named Mona Lisa With a Pipe (1883). Meanwhile, three decades later, Dada artist Marcel Duchamp gave Mona Lisa a makeover in his whimsical work, L.H.O.O.Q (1919), in which he drew a moustache and a goatee on her face and provided a pun-filled title alluding to a provocative French comment about her attractive bottom.

GELITIN, Mona Lisa, 2007, plasticine on wood, 41  x 28  x 4.5  cm. Courtesy the artists and Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong. 

Gelitin’s other plasticine works in the gallery include that in the “Flower Painting” series (2007–15), which is reminiscent of the iconic colorful flowers of Takashi Murakami, an artist who is also represented by the gallery. Untitled (2007), a peculiar plasticine collage of blue ghoulish faces in concentric flower petal arrangement, is hung on the wall space above the glass display containing several large Murakami plush flower merchandise products.  In the same section of the gallery, a textile horse and a mini crocheted pink rabbit both scream for attention. In 2005, the group created a massive site-specific installation in the Piedmont region of Italy—a gargantuan knitted rabbit that took five years to fabricate. The pink rabbit was left succumbing to the elements, reposing among the Alps like a “decaying corpse” or an “innocent carcass at the roadside,” described by the artists.

GELITIN, Untitled, 2007, plasticine on wood, 110 × 105 × 5 cm. Courtesy the artists and Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong. 

GELITIN, from “Nellanutella” series, 2001, Lambda c-print, 50 × 75 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong. 

Further eccentricities of the artist group can be seen in their photographs from “The B-Thing” (2001) and “Nellanutella” (2011) series, which depict members of Gelitin frolicking at unexpected places, from outside the window on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center in New York City, to the murky canals of Venice. Two interactive sculptures from their “Falling Sculpture” (2016) series invite viewers to step on a pedal to knocking the artwork from its pedestal. Since art is often perceived as precious, intimidating or alienating, Gelitin aims to question the inherent value of art.

No matter what the preconceived notions of art the viewer holds, the group’s outlandish performances and mixed-media works are a thrill for the senses.

GELITIN, Hase, 2014, toilet paper, 140 × 30 × 30  cm. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong.