Jake and Dinos Chapman have, in their brotherly two-decade-long career, envisioned many incarnations of hell—Nazi, Freudian, apocalyptic, fast-food chain, Biblical hell with plenty of violence and limbs. That makes their studio, a former iron factory in Hackney Wick, a sort of artistic limbo—a place where two rather Herculean men, with the help of a team of assistants, go about creating new hells in toy-figurine form. “Hot in the summer, too cold in the winter,” Dinos, age 50, says of the place. “Same as any studio.” On the second floor sit certain sculptural works-including the multi-headed child mannequins with genitals for noses and mouths—that made the Chapman brothers so famous in the YBA days of the 1990s. While time hasn’t been kind to every British artist lumped into Charles Saatchi’s 1997 “Sensation” show, the Chapmans have honed their imagistic vocabulary, or really exploded it out, and their sculptural forms—ruthless, hilarious, nightmarish, vampirically alive—have become some of the few iconic Western artworks so far this century to tackle the horrors of death and warfare-be it gender, capitalist, genocidal, a queasy art-world-cold-observer variety, or even just mortal. Arguably, they stand as the anti-Jeff Koonses of contemporary art, using a similar pop-cultural wit to pry open the sleek surfaces for the panic underneath. When their Fucking Hell vitrines were presented at the Punta della Dogana during the 2009 Venice Biennale, the dizzying battlefield invaded by 30,000 individual figurines, each forming its own sort of death dance, stood in pointed relief to the classical religious icons that populate the city. The Chapmans have continued to expand their dark carnival motifs—even separately creating figurative paintings, abstract sculptures, and life-size teams of black homoerotic Nazis-and have group and solo exhibitions lined up for the coming year. While there’s a boyish fuck-you vibe to their enterprise, both men are eloquent on the ways and means of assembly and presentation. “Things are mostly planned ahead,” Jake, age 46, says. “We make schematic plans, but there are possibilities for little emergent ideas to have their say. That’s the advantage of two people making the work. There’s a conversation derived from the work rather than pursuing some perceived end point. I wouldn’t say there is a methodology. The methodology is that there isn’t one.” And how does the conversation go between two brothers? “We have long dialogues,” Jake says. “We’ve been in dialogue for the past 20 years, I guess.” “Like a scratched record,” Dinos adds.
PHOTO: JAKE & DINOS CHAPMAN IN LONDON, OCTOBER 2012. ALL CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES: THE CHAPMANSÂ?’ OWN.