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Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber Ocula Report Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber 15 Mar 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...

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Diana Campbell Betancourt Ocula Conversation Diana Campbell Betancourt

Diana Campbell Betancourt is a curator working predominantly across South and Southeast Asia. Since 2013 she has been the founding artistic director of the Samdani Art Foundation and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a transnational art event that has grown in size and scale ever since its first edition in 2012. Backed by...

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Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art Ocula Report Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art 7 Mar 2019 : Mike Pinnington for Ocula

China, home to 802 million internet users, is subject to sophisticated online censorship. This shrouded state of affairs, unsurprisingly perhaps, serves to reinforce stereotypes around conformity elsewhere. Any realm, digital or otherwise, subject to such strict scrutiny must necessarily be bland and uncritical, right? I was mulling over such...

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George Condo

b. 1957, USA

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heavily influenced by the contrasting aesthetics of old master painting, cubism and pop art, Condo also draws from art historical references as diverse as Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin and Willem de Kooning.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.

Elliat Albrecht | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

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Of Mice and Men by George Condo contemporary artwork George CondoOf Mice and Men, 2008 Acrylic, charcoal, pastel and sand on paper
152.4 x 130.8 cm
Sprüth Magers
The Homeless Hobo by George Condo contemporary artwork George CondoThe Homeless Hobo, 2009 Oil on canvas
216 x 190.6 cm
Simon Lee Gallery
Name Composition by George Condo contemporary artwork George CondoName Composition, 1989 Oil on canvas
77.5 x 107 cm (incl frame)
Almine Rech Gallery
Jean Louis by George Condo contemporary artwork George CondoJean Louis, 2015 Oil on canvas
152.5 x 122 cm
Simon Lee Gallery
Rodrigo with his Bride and her Mother by George Condo contemporary artwork George CondoRodrigo with his Bride and her Mother, 2008 Charcoal, oil-stick and oil on paper
151.1 x 101 cm
Simon Lee Gallery
Dimensional Portrait by George Condo contemporary artwork George CondoDimensional Portrait, 2015 Ink on paper
67.3 x 50.2 cm
Simon Lee Gallery
American Cancer by George Condo contemporary artwork George CondoAmerican Cancer, 1981 Acrylic on canvas
91.4 x 91.4 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery
John Lennon by George Condo contemporary artwork George CondoJohn Lennon, 2001 Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas
152 x 152 cm (incl frame)
Simon Lee Gallery

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, George Condo, WHAT’S THE POINT? at Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
9 April–1 June 2019 George Condo WHAT’S THE POINT? Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, A New Way of Walking at Timothy Taylor, London
7 June–24 August 2018 Group Exhibition A New Way of Walking Timothy Taylor, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, New Pleasure at Simon Lee Gallery, New York
1 November–23 December 2017 Group Exhibition New Pleasure Simon Lee Gallery, New York

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Gwangju Biennale: Burning Down The House Ocula Report Gwangju Biennale: Burning Down The House 4 Oct 2014 : Jeesun Park for Ocula

Gwangju is only the sixth largest city in Korea but its history has become well-known to art audiences around the world through its provocative biennale, now a fixed event in the international art calendar. The Gwangju Biennale began twenty years ago specifically to commemorate the historic fight for democracy that took place in the city, known...

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Alan Lo Ocula Conversation Alan Lo Chairman, Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design, Hong Kong

Active in promoting art and design in Hong Kong, Alan Lo is the Chairman of Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design, sits on the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, and was a member of Art HK’s advisory group.  Lo is also a co-founder and director of Hong Kong-based Press Room Group, owner and operator of various well-known restaurants and...

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In Related Press

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Portrait of an Artist: George Condo Related Press Portrait of an Artist: George Condo Vanity Fair : 17 March 2018

As the world grapples with frightening new levels of terrorism, racism and global political unrest, George Condo says he has ironically never felt more inspired. The artist, best known for his fantastical depictions of debauchery and comedic contoured caricatures of subjects both real and imaginary, explains that the current unstable environment...

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GEORGE CONDO with Joachim Pissarro Related Press GEORGE CONDO with Joachim Pissarro The Brooklyn Rail : 2 November 2017

George Condo is a New York-based artist whose career launched in the East Village in the early 1980s. During this time, he also worked in Andy Warhol's factory before moving to Los Angeles and holding his first solo exhibition in 1983. In the decades that followed, Condo has emerged as one of the world's preeminent painters and sculptors. In 2017,...

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George Condo goes from Kanye West's dark fantasy to painting his own demons Related Press George Condo goes from Kanye West's dark fantasy to painting his own demons The Guardian : 20 April 2016

These, along with abstract portraits and compositions like Landslide and Tumbling Forms, mark a departure from Condo’s previous work involving drawing, pastel and charcoal like those in his 2014 London shows at Skarstedt and Simon Lee galleries. Back then, he quickly realized he would have to take measures to ensure that his drawings didn’t...

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German art-world feminists stake their claim in L.A. with new Sprüth Magers gallery Related Press German art-world feminists stake their claim in L.A. with new Sprüth Magers gallery The Los Angeles Times : 8 March 2016

Scrawled repeatedly on the window panes of a mid-Wilshire building, from the base to the rooftop, is artist John Baldessari’s call from his 1971 lithograph: “I will not make any more boring art.”The sentiment is also a promise of sorts from the building’s new inhabitants, gallerists Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers....

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In Related Video

George Condo The Artist at Work Related Video & Audio George Condo The Artist at Work Louisiana Channel : 14 December 2017

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.

George Condo Interview: The Way I Think Related Video & Audio George Condo Interview: The Way I Think Louisiana Channel : 2 November 2017

'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...


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