Simon Lee and Skarstedt London have announced concurrent exhibitions of the American artist George Condo. Simon Lee Gallery is presenting an exhibition of new paintings by Condo. It will complement a solo show of Condo’s new works on paper at Skarstedt Gallery London. This will be the artist’s third solo show at Skarstedt and follows his acclaimed retrospective George Condo: Mental States, at the Hayward Gallery, London in 2011- 2012.
Marking a new development in the artist’s oeuvre, the exhibition at Simon Lee Gallery will feature a series of portraits whose subjects extend irrepressibly beyond the confines of the canvas. Informed by the trajectory of art history spanning from European Old Master painting to Cubism and Abstract Expressionism, the works are hybrid images emblematic of Condo’s singularly inventive style. As Condo states, ‘The only way to feel the difference between every other artist and me is to use every artist to become me’.
Since the beginning of his artistic career, drawing and works on paper have formed an important part of George Condo’s working practice. Featuring monumental works on paper this exceptional series, realised over a six-month period, marks an exciting new area of focus for Condo.
“My intention with this body of work was to explore the extreme possibilities of ink on paper. I used the medium to create transparent layers of colors. I thought of Rothko at times and his overlapping veils of transcendental space. I placed the figure into this kind of space and used lines to define their ambiguous presence in the void.”
Following his pivotal exhibition of Drawing Paintings at Skarstedt New York in 2011, Condo has explored the relationship between the directness of drawing and the controlled methods of painting. The new works on paper are characterised by a dark brooding palette and a return to the figurative in subject matter. Marking a deliberate move away from the abstract tendencies of previous work, this series heralds the beginning of a new stylistic engagement with a traditional subject in which the drama of the works is intensified by their impressive scale.
Mirroring the continual dialogue between Condo’s drawings and paintings, the simultaneous exhibitions at Skarstedt and Simon Lee reflect the collaborative approach of both galleries to presenting Condo’s work. Continuing in the vein of Condo’s synthesis of both drawing and painting within his oeuvre, the concurrent exhibitions in London further the artist’s on-going exploration of both mediums.
George Condo was born in New Hampshire in 1957. Ranging from painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture, his work is informed by the inherited European tradition of art making. Incorporating a hybridisation of classical influences, such as Raphael, Goya, Velazquez, Picasso and Manet, his work demonstrates a distinctive style which he coined “Artificial Realism” in the early 80s when he emerged as painter on the New York art scene. This original painterly language has greatly influenced the generation that follows him. Often called ‘an artist’s artist’, Condo has stood as an example to younger practitioners through his unabashed commitment to his personal vision. Over the decades, his work has consistently surprised and engaged viewers with grotesque, humorous and often tradition-conscious paintings.
Condo’s world is populated by a cast of characters whose bulging eyes, bulbous cheeks, proliferating limbs and hideous over- or under-bites mark apart them as a singular species. The astonishing range of art-historical sources which his pictorial language draws upon is often noted, and yet this continuity across his vastly diverse painting practice bears witness to his achievement in absorbing the revolutionary genius of Picasso, Velazquez, Matisse, Archimboldo Pollock, Twombly and countless others and making them new; characteristically his own.
Priests, Cardinals, clowns and waiters, grotesque nudes, debutantes and eager society girls wearing pearl necklaces, whether alone or assembled into orgiastic groups, all stare in confrontation out of his pictures. Condo has described his portraits as composites of various psychological states painted in different ways, reflecting the madness of everyday life. They often fuse cartoon figures and human forms into a state of metamorphosis, each simultaneously reflecting a plethora of emotions and gestures; a scream and a laugh within a single expression. Sculptures too, and drawings continue this investigation of the macabre, the carnivalesque and the abject, as well as apparently abstract painting compositions from which the familiar physiognomies of Condo’s players emerge and into which they return.