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b. 1964, Switzerland

Ugo Rondinone Biography

Swiss-born artist Ugo Rondinone is now based in New York. He rose to international acclaim in the early 1990s with highly varied work, the result of refusing to commit to any specific style. He produces paintings, drawings, sculpture (large and small), photography, video, and sound and installation art. He is also a poet, collector and curator.

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Rondinone strives to make works that meditate on everyday life and the world and particularly reflect on the theme of time, blurring the distinction between the real and artificial. He avoids producing art that is densely intellectual. In a conversation with Ocula Magazine in 2014, Ugo Rondinone claims to work with ‘very basic raw symbols, something that everyone can relate to, from a child to an old person, from the East to the West.’ The emphasis is on creating engagement through experiencing the work first, rather than a conceptual understanding.

The rainbow is one of the most common motifs in Ugo Rondinone’s artwork. From 1997, he began producing lit signs composed of large words—simple poetic titles and phrases—supported high in the air and following the form and colours of the rainbow. At once beautiful and fantastical, the rainbow is also an easily understood LGBT symbol, signifying the freedom to love whom one wants. For Rondinone, this symbol is especially important; he is the longtime partner of famed New York writer, poet and performer, John Giorno.

Ugo Rondinone’s use of Day-Glo rainbow colours extends into many other works. One key sculptural motif involves stacking brightly coloured rocks, seen on its grandest scale with his Seven Magic Mountains work in Nevada (11 May 2016–2018). These towers of rough-cut boulders are painted in highly artificial Day-Glo rainbow hues, as well as in black, white and silver. In a press release for the installation, Rondinone stated that he sees this combination of artificial colour and natural rock formations as a continuum ‘between human and nature, artificial and natural, then and now.’

Not all of Rondinone’s art involves bright colour though. Another motif consists of simple primitive figures, composed of roughly hewn stone blocks evocative of Stonehenge. Another still is of mask-like sculptures inspired by indigenous Alaskan Yup’ik masks: aluminium casts made from clay moulds, painted in a single dull colour. Another, yet again in aluminium, is the cast of ghostly olive trees, coated in white enamel. 

Within the gallery context, Rondinone is most known for creating multimedia installations. He designs exhibitions that generate a holistic experience. Through meticulous planning—such as working with miniature models—he sets up relations between different works, enhancing them through the layout, colour scheme and architecture of the space itself. In these installations, he brings together different motifs developed over his career in varied configurations to generate different meanings. For example, Ugo Rondinone’s lacklustre clown, which appears passively in live-action, video and life-size sculptures, might sit amid his hypnotic, blurred target paintings, floating mandalas or wall paintings made of brick planes coated in single, vivid, Day-Glo colours.

Straddling the divide between gallery and public art, Ugo Rondinone’s art has been exhibited at major art institutions in the United States, Europe and China as well as at the 56th Venice Biennale, at the same time producing large-scale works for exhibitions in public spaces. 

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2017

Exhibition view: Pat Steir & Ugo Rondinone, waterfalls & clouds, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich (4 September–16 October 2021). © the artists. Courtesy the artists and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / New York.

Ugo Rondinone Featured Artworks

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fünfteraprilzweitausendundsechzehn by Ugo Rondinone contemporary artwork
Ugo Rondinonefünfteraprilzweitausendundsechzehn, 2016Acrylic on canvas
271.8 x 180 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
the sun at 1:30 pm by Ugo Rondinone contemporary artwork
Ugo Rondinonethe sun at 1:30 pm, 2020Gilded bronze
Esther Schipper Contact Gallery
neunteraprilzweitausendundzwanzig by Ugo Rondinone contemporary artwork
Ugo Rondinoneneunteraprilzweitausendundzwanzig, 2020Watercolour on canvas, artist's frame, Plexiglas plaque with caption
200 x 300 cm
Esther Schipper Contact Gallery
black green yellow blue pink mountain by Ugo Rondinone contemporary artwork
Ugo Rondinoneblack green yellow blue pink mountain, 2019Painted stone and stainless steel with pedestal
214 x 63 x 27 cm
Lévy Gorvy Contact Gallery
fog in the elbe valley 1821 by Ugo Rondinone contemporary artwork
Ugo Rondinonefog in the elbe valley 1821, 2016Cast aluminium
73 x 29.5 x 3.5 cm
Galerie Eva Presenhuber Contact Gallery
drifting clouds  1820 by Ugo Rondinone contemporary artwork
Ugo Rondinonedrifting clouds 1820, 2016Cast aluminium
80 x 50 x 3.5 cm
Galerie Eva Presenhuber Contact Gallery
silver blue mountain by Ugo Rondinone contemporary artwork
Ugo Rondinonesilver blue mountain, 2015Painted stone, stainless steel, pedestal
160.5 x 70 x 42 cm
Sadie Coles HQ Contact Gallery

Ugo Rondinone Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Ugo Rondinone Represented By

Ugo Rondinone In Ocula Magazine

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In Ocula Advisory

Ugo Rondinone In Related Press

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