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Massimo de Carlo Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Conceived the same year as the artist’s major solo exhibition at the Musée Maillol, Paris, George Condo’s Noble Woman from 2009 is a striking example of the artist’s signature style, featuring a female profile emerging from the lustrous depths of a scarlet background. Behind her hovers a cartoonish male head splitting out of a nude female torso. His bowtie identifies him as Rodrigo, one of Condo’s most well-known characters. In its schematic rendering, Noble Woman illustrates the pride of place that drawing has in the artist’s career. His figures are at once separate from and inextricably linked to the very background upon which they sit. The realistic anatomical features that emerge from this rich atmosphere of painterly abstraction illustrate Condo’s desire to “take a person and fragment them to make architecture.” (George Condo, quoted in George Condo: Mental States, exh. cat. New Museum, New York, 2011, p. 24) The vibrant color palette and the title of the work echo the grand tradition of Renaissance portraiture, and in doing so, references the artist’s own iconography, recalling his irreverent versions based on this classic motif from a decade earlier.
Immediately recognizable for their grotesque features, Condo’s cast of humorous figures is indebted to the Western tradition of painting. In addition to the homage paid to Renaissance portraiture in the figure’s three-quarter composition, Noble Woman also presents vestiges of Cubist Picasso in its multiple viewpoints. Her elongated neck recalls Parmigianino’s Mannerist masterpiece, Madonna of the Long Neck, another art historical reference. The gaping mouths baring menacing teeth and bulbous eyes and cheeks that emerge from the schematic composition all undeniably mark Noble Woman as conceived in Condo’s mind’s-eye.
Speaking of the artist’s iconic figurative archetypes, Ralph Rugoff notes, “these figures can be seductive and repulsive at the same time. They embody a position that is simultaneously frightening and appealing. This is something that also comes across in the way that they solicit different kinds of looks from the viewer, and how they often look back at us with eyes that don’t match or don’t even seem to belong to the same face.” (George Condo: Existential Portraits: Sculpture, Drawings, Paintings 2005/2006, exh. cat., Luhring Augustine, New York, 2006, pp. 8-9)
Noble Woman is situated among Condo’s “Drawing Paintings” predominately conceived between 2009 and 2011, a period which saw the artist create a level playing-field between the multi-media disciplines used within his practice: in these works, painting, pastel and charcoal are of equal importance in the conception of the final composition. By uniting the formal elements of both media into a single work, Condo brings an immediacy to his composition. As critic Simon Baker further notes, “More than anything else, however, the ‘Drawing Paintings’ allow Condo to work through the double imperatives of free-form improvisations with line (running through the whole gamut of his technical facility in a range of styles) and a precise attention to color and tone. In some instances, they seem close to "color-field" painting, in the Abstract Expressionist sense of the term, constructed through, and around, a resolute attention to the pleasures and indulgences of figurations. (Simon Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London, 2015, p. 156)
American • 1957
Picasso once said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." Indeed, American artist George Condo frequently cites Picasso as an explicit source in his contemporary cubist compositions and joyous use of paint. Condo is known for neo-Modernist compositions staked in wit and the grotesque, which draw the eye into a highly imaginary world.
Condo came up in the New York art world at a time when art favored brazen innuendo and shock. Student to Warhol, best friend to Basquiat and collaborator with William S. Burroughs, Condo tracked a different path. He was drawn to the endless inquiries posed by the aesthetics and formal considerations of Caravaggio, Rembrandt and the Old Masters.
New York Auction 16 November 5 PM EST