I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...
The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...
The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...
'I kind of draw like you’re walking through the forest, where you don’t really know where you’re going, and you just start from some point and randomly travel through the paper until you get to a place where you finally reach your destination.' Condo studied music theory at college, but soon realised that it was too formal and rigid for him, and that he needed an art form that would give him more freedom. However, he still approaches his art like a musician, working fast and following the rhythm of the drawing or painting without 'missing any of the notes.' The tempo, he feels, is very important when it comes to art.
George Condo is an American artist known for his distinctive, deformed and sometimes demonic paintings that combine figuration and abstraction. Most heavily influenced by the contrasting aesthetics of old master painting, cubism and pop art, Condo also draws from art historical references as diverse as Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin and Willem de Kooning. He is renowned for mixing madness and beauty in his often figurative output, asserting that art's potential is not to invent, but to reconfigure, retool and innovate. The juxtapositions and strange figures in his artworks are a stand-in for the chaos of contemporary life.
The intermingling of contemporary art and music has always been an important part of Condo's practice. For two years, he studied art history simultaneously with guitar and composition at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. After leaving college, Condo moved to Boston and joined proto-synth/punk band The Girls. When Condo met Jean Michel-Basquiat after The Girls opened for the artist's band in New York City in 1979, Condo decided to move to New York to pursue a career in art. It was here that he coined the term 'artificial realism', a term that he used to describe his life-like representation of imagined things and that would come to define his practice.
While Condo moved and worked between Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Cologne during the 1980s, he was primarily associated with New York's East Village art scene, where he also held his first exhibitions. It was in Europe that he met gallerist Barbara Gladstone, who organised a significant two-gallery exhibition of his work at Pat Hearn and Barbara Gladstone Galleries in New York, helping to launch his career. In 1987, Condo's Dancing to Miles (1985–6) was included in the Whitney Biennial; the painting is a large, turbulent and analytic cubist-inspired canvas that mirrors the frenzied improvisation of jazz musicians, drawing comparisons between erratic free-form music and art.
Condo has maintained close relationships with many important artists and thinkers of his time, with their works inspiring his, and theirs in turn being influenced by him. At one point, Condo worked in Andy Warhol's factory, where he was involved in applying gold dust to the older artist's 'Myths' series. Condo was also close with Keith Haring and often painted in his studio. Later he met William S Burroughs, with whom he collaborated on a series of sculptures, paintings, writings and etchings. In Paris, he befriended French philosopher Félix Guattari, who wrote often on Condo's work. Salman Rushdie's 2001 novel Fury includes a chapter inspired by one of Condo's paintings titled The Psychoanalytic Puppeteer Losing His Mind (1994). Notably launching him into the larger world of pop culture, in 2010, Condo painted the cover art for Kanye West's album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The image, featuring a figure holding a bottle with a nude winged female on his lap, was quickly censored by iTunes, pointing to the often provocative nature of Condo's artwork.
Borrowing compositional techniques from traditional oil painting and early-20th-century modernist works, Condo's output is most often portraiture-based, full of weird, villainous characters with jutting teeth, large ears and disjointed features. For example, the oil-on-canvas painting The Cracked Cardinal (2004) shows a figure from the torso up, wearing traditional Catholic garb with bulging eyes and bared teeth broken into irregular planes. Similarly, his 2004 painting Little Ricky depicts a nefarious-looking, bulbous-faced youth with cigarettes burning out of each ear and a green bottle balanced atop his head. In Condo's words, his characters encompass 'quite a crew: Indian chiefs, cavemen, office bosses, the nun, two-bit hustlers, low-life criminals, people with one tooth, one eye, protruding chins, enlarged facial features', and are drawn both from life and his imagination. His sculptures too are often absurd renderings of bodies; the 2012 patinated bronze The Liquor Store Attendant is a large-eared bust, with obvious finger marks denoting the artist's handiwork, while The Farmer's Wife (2005) is a bronze approximation of a woman's head with a carrot protruding from her forehead.
Condo has exhibited extensively internationally, most notably including the exhibition Mental States, a 2011 retrospective at New York's New Museum that travelled to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Hayward Gallery, London, and Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. In 2017, The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC mounted a major survey of his work titled George Condo: The Way I Think, which focused on his drawings, sketches and 'drawing paintings'. In 2004, Condo taught a six-month course at Harvard University entitled 'Painting Memory', and in 2000, John McNaughton directed the documentary Condo Painting, which followed the artist over a course of a year while he painted a major large-scale oil painting titled Big Red.
Condo lives and works in New York City.
The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam presents a major survey of the work of German artist Günther Förg (1952–2013). 'A Fragile Beauty' explores the work of a rebellious artist whose oeuvre embodies a critical, witty, yet rigorous and penetrating critique of the canon of modern art.
Having gathered professional mourners from around the world to perform their laments in New York in 2016, artist and erstwhile Wallpaper* Guest Editor Taryn Simon is now bringing her groundbreaking artwork to London, opening this evening. We caught up with Simon in midst of rehearsals to talk about grief, performance and ephemerality.
The mind of American artist George Condo has been referred to as a place where 'Picasso meets Looney Tunes.' Watch him at work in his New York-studio where he draws and paints his take on a 19th-century painting by Manet.
Nina Beier (Artist, STANDARD (OSLO), joségarcía, mx), Tom Burr (Artist, Bortolami Gallery). Moderated by Stephanie Cristello, Director of Programming, EXPO CHICAGO and Editor-in-Chief, THE SEENWhat is the responsibility of formalism in the twenty-first century? This panel will trace the work of contemporary artists whose diverse sculptural...
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