George Condo
April 7, 2012 — April 28, 2012
Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches (92 x 92 cm)
 
 

PRISM is pleased present an exhibition of works by George Condo.

In the first extensive exhibition of Condo’s work in Los Angeles, PRISM presents a selection of paintings, drawings and sculptures that span a wide arc of his career. Particular attention is given to his work over the last decade and the individual portraits that have distinguished Condo with one of the most resolute practices in contemporary art.

Acutely gifted in technique, Condo’s style often recalls Old Master painting, while his devotion to portraiture displays an enduring fascination with archetypes, character and psychology. Over three decades, Condo has painted hundreds of characters into being, working from his imagination to fuse the existing and the fictitious. His paintings are at once erotic, aberrant, humorous and absurd. Condo is celebrated for pushing his characters towards the beautiful and grotesque, finding the tension between attraction and repulsion, comedy and tragedy.

George Condo is considered one of the most prolific and influential American artists working today. Over the last 30 years he has drawn upon the painting vocabularies of Velázquez, Tiepolo, Goya and Picasso, while developing a singular language of his own. His work has been exhibited extensively throughout his career in Europe and America and is held in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles, Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Ministère de la Culture, Paris and Museu d’Art Contemporani, Barcelona. In the last twelve months a major traveling survey of his work George Condo: Mental States has been presented at the New Museum, New York, the Hayward Gallery, London and Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. This is the first solo exhibition of Condo's work at PRISM.

The gallery has worked with JF Chen to curate a selection of furnishings from their collection to accent the exhibition.

 

‘As long as I was just portraying objects, photography suited me perfectly. But when I decided to take as my subject human beings, I felt I had to return to painting.’

Michel Houellebecq

The Map and the Territory, Knopf, 2012

 

George Condo has been devoted to the practice of portraiture for three decades. Significantly, his portraits are recurrently populated by fictional beings — characters that are painted into existence. When presented with this rich spectrum of subjects, it becomes clear that Condo’s interest in representing character lies where the exterior form meets the interior landscape. The face, neck, shoulders and body become surfaces upon which psychology can be articulated. Condo deftly locates the melting point between the physical attributes of a character and the mental state that flows beneath the skin. It’s significant that philosopher Félix Guattari addressed Condo’s paintings in his writing on art and subjectivity, as the artist evidently understands how to tear a subject up just enough that the substance of their psyche spills out.

 

Condo prefers an isolated subject, posturing or posing, holding gestures and glances that demonstrate they’re aware their image is being captured. Because these are typically fictional characters, the artist is both considering their existence at the exact moment he provides it. The individual and the archetype compete with each other within each of his subjects, as he pushes these visionary characters towards the beautiful and grotesque, working in the confusing territory between attraction and repulsion. A ruptured, abstracted face is often accompanied by pearls, jewels and adornments of luxury; drawings and paintings illustrating sex usually boil over into the comedic, often edging towards a darker perversion. As in the often conflicted psychology of the mind, one emotion is closely accompanied by its opposite.

 

All your “periods’ coexist in this polyphony: blue, clown, linear, volumic, monochrome, etc. It’s as if a symphony was articulating all the levels of your own “self” that you explore and simultaneously invent through your painting.

Félix Guattari

George Condo, Galerie Daniel Templon, 1990

 

Condo’s work wraps itself in several visions of art history. The list of references appending his name usually reads Goya, Velásquez, Matisse, Picasso. In his abstract figuration and collage we can observe Braque; in the windows of clouds we see Tiepolo. Condo seems to be able to borrow the brush of other painters when he works, as though they’ve contributed to a vocabulary of painting that invites his elaboration. In Multi-colored Farmer (2007), for example, the occupational archetype of a farmer expresses himself in a dialect that fuses Condo’s distinct language with Picasso’s pictorial vocabulary.

 

The artist rarely strays away from representing human beings, distorted and garbled as they may be. Even in his more abstracted paintings and collages, there is an explicit sense that they are depicting the density that amasses in the human mind. Panic Room (2009) is composed of several overlapping faces and the hectic vibrations that the personalities omit. Morteratsch (1987), named after a glacier in Switzerland’s Bündner Alps, demonstrates Condo’s early pursuit of the pictorial space that blends a material landscape with a frenzied psychological projection that it might incur.

 

Condo’s figures are renowned for their exaggerated forms – a face is often led by a slope to a shoulder without consideration of a neck, an eye protrudes painfully, lips permanently kiss a nose. Showgirl (2008) is a prurient dancer, overpopulated with limbs that wrap around themselves, her pose balanced tentatively on a glass sphere that replaces a foot at the end of one of her three legs. Despite the derangement or perversion, Condo paints, draws and sculpts with august realism that recalls the old masters. In his work, there is a collision between the chimerical and quotidian, enigma and overexposure, between deep historical recesses and the immediate moment of applying paint to a surface. Having amassed an encyclopaedia of characters and a host of visual mannerisms over the last three decades, it’s possible to talk about Condo’s work as constituting a fully-furnished world.

-Liv Barrett

 
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Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches (91 x 91 inches) Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches (91 x 91 inches) Oil and crayon on canvas, 59 X 63 inches (150 x 160 cm) Oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches (92 x 92 cm) Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches (152.5 x 122 cm) Mixed media and collage on paper, 47 1/4 x 35 inches (120 x 88.9 cm) Oil on canvas, 46 x 44 inches (122 x 118 cm) Contè crayon on paper, 30 x 22 1/4 inches (76.2 x 56.5 cm) George Condo, Installation View, 2012 George Condo, Installation View, 2012 George Condo, Installation View, 2012 George Condo, Installation View, 2012 George Condo, Installation View, 2012 George Condo, Installation View, 2012