In 1905, Sigmund Freud wrote that jokes ease the weight of the usually suppressed. George Condo seems to apply this therapy to painting and its history. He says he was looking for a way to paint in a representational style without looking like boring realism or photorealism.
Instead, Mr. Condo has been developing his own surreal universe of strange types: The boxer, the butcher, the stockbroker, Uncle Joe, Rodrigo -not to forget to mention his popular harlequins. Most of them look funny, but seem to hide something evil behind their ridiculous appearances. Condo loots a wide range of styles from art history to pop culture. He says, ‘it is very rare that I simply copy a certain part of another painting. I work with the images in my head and not in front of my eyes.‘
The majority of George Condo’s works are portraits. I guess that is why the two curators, Ralph Rugoff (Hayward Gallery, London) and Laura Hoptman (now MoMA), hung 50 of them salon-style. The wall at the 4th floor of the New Museum looks like the gallery of ancestral portraits of Mr. Condo’s strange characters.
On the third floor, there are three galleries of paintings, each is devoted to a certain mental state. At the beginning this was the artist’s mental state. He said in an interview, that the beauty in his paintings of 2000 reflects the luck of his private life in this time. Now, in the museum, it is about the visitors and what the paintings do to their mental states.
His abstract paintings are not so well known. He stated recently, ‘I have always been involved and interested in abstract figurative paintings in a way that might help to redefine what some of the preconceptions are about what abstraction is. Representational pictures are the artist’s body - abstractions are pictures of the artist’s mind.’
George Condo often has been labeled with the questionable ‘artist’s artist’ label. I don’t think he is into l’art pour l’art that refers to the history of painting only. Instead, he uses his surreal types and his elaborate painting techniques to comment on today’s politics. At the beginning of the current banking crisis, he said in an interview that the color spots of his harlequin’s dresses are a reference to a banker, who bought a Damien Hirst spot painting.
The New Museum in New York now devotes to George Condo the first museum one man show in the US for years. This is surprising, as he has been a well established painter in the New York art world for three decades now.
In 1980, he worked some time as a printmaker in Andy Warhol’s factory branch in Duane Street. There he became friends with Jean-Michel Basquiat. He left for a short stay in California, where he changed his way of painting.In 1983, he had his first one-man shows at the Goodman and Kantor Galleries. George Condo was one of the new painter stars, like Julian Schnabel, David Salle or Basquiat.
In the late 1980s he moved to Europe. After he lived 10 years mostly in Paris, he came back to New York in 1995. Since then he has been widely shown in many group and gallery shows. He also frequently contributes to the Whitney Biennial.
I like George Condo’s strange family album!
George Condo: ‘Mental States’ at the New Museum, New York
Trough 8th May 2011