Young Lovers

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  • Provenance

    Sprüth Magers Lee, London
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Mr. Condo makes things that look like paintings, that have the presence, completeness and frontal tautness of paintings, yet in some essential way are not so much paintings as artifacts, signs of another time and place, layered thickly with talent and nostalgia and a particularly dandyish form of conservatism.”
    (R. Smith, ‘Condo Creates a Future with Layers of Nostalgia’, New York Times, 25 March 1988)

    George Condo draws both of art history, especially portraiture, and on his vivid imagination to create his world of bizarre characters whom he brings together in both horror and beauty and who relate to reality but are at one and the same time artificial. Young Lovers, painted in 2004, is a particularly good example of this body of work in which the paradoxical combination of opposites is particularly evident. It is this polarity that gives rise to the multiple levels of meaning to be found in Condo’s complex work, not only showing the external appearances of his subjects but also exposing their inner consciousnesses.

    Young Lovers represents all the qualities embodied by Artificial Realism, the term invented by the artist himself in the early 80s in his attempt to describe his style of painting and defined as: “the realistic representation of that which is artificial” (the artist quoted in Jennifer Higgie, ‘Time’s Fool’, Frieze, May 2007). Two naked grotesque creatures depicted in the foreground, whose figures seem at once human and monstrous, convey tenderness, vulnerability as well as horror and raw sexuality. This uncanny combination of sensualities evoked by this work is distinctive of Condo’s manner.

    Condo continues a tradition of portraiture brought to its zenith by Franz Hals and later challenged by, among others, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon. Although the message and subject matter of Condo’s work are highly original, his method of painting remains traditional – he starts by applying the ground to the canvas, then makes the drawings before applying the paint. His compositions are carefully thought through using sketches and he sometimes produces series of works with only slight variations. The present lot is the artist’s take on the traditional composition of the reclining figure, one that has been used repeatedly throughout art history, most famously in the 20th century by Picasso and Henry Moore. The expressiveness of Condo’s brushstrokes in depicting the flesh, together with the mesmerizingly terrifying faces of the nudes, gives the painting a theatrical, darkly comic quality as well as an ironic sexuality. According to Ralph Rugolf, the main organizer of Condo’s mid-career retrospective at the New Museum, New York in 2011, “George’s paintings have a life that’s very different from what you get in other artists. There’s real heat on the surface, and things are changing all the time” (quoted in Calvin Tomkins, ‘Portraits of Imaginary People: the Paintings of George Condo’, New Yorker, 17 January 2011).

  • Artist Bio

    George Condo

    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.

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Young Lovers

2004
oil on canvas
101.5 x 127 cm (39 7/8 x 50 in)
Signed, titled and dated 'Condo Young Lovers 04' on the reverse.

Estimate
£120,000 - 180,000 

Contemporary Art Evening

28 June 2012
London