George Condo - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale Hong Kong Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, George Condo - Cartoon Abstractions , 31 March - 26 May 2010, pp. 28-29 (illustrated p. 29)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Great Gazoo is a cartoon character in the Flintstones animated series and part of the body of works entitled Cartoon Abstractions, which George Condo began in 2009. Inspired mainly by Tex Avery, Hanna-Barbera and Looney Tunes characters, in each painting Condo begins by drawing the original outlines of these figures. He then extends these black outlines in order to produce an abstract composition which will cover the remainder of the canvas. Fragmented, subjective depictions of the character drawn from the artist’s imagination blend with the layers of paint, at times appearing clearly or implicitly beneath coloured marks, an improvisation based upon spontaneous use of the paint. Each canvas has its own chromatic palette, drawn directly from the colours associated with the character shown. In the present work, shades of green dominate the composition to match the costume of the little alien. Exhibited as early as in 2010 at the Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont in Paris, the Cartoon Abstractions form a singular but very coherent small group of works in the artist’s career. Condo had already embraced the cartoons theme in depicting Superman and Batman in works from 2005. At play in these works was an acerbic comment on the values of the superhero in today’s society, as well as an underlying analysis of the genre of portraiture itself. In the Cartoon Abstractions series, Condo reflects upon his own practice as well as the age d’or of American soft power, where its cultural history conquered and transformed the world in the 1950s and 1960s.

    Condo has always drawn his inspiration from the Masters, whether Pablo Picasso or the Old Masters he copied in the Louvre whilst living in Paris. He did not merely copy their figures and subjects though, showing more interest in their techniques and rules of composition. Looking at the deep influence Abstract Expressionism and especially Willem de Kooning has had on Condo, the same analysis can be drawn. De Kooning’s heritage can be seen in the background of The Great Gazoo, where the canvas forms the stage of an action painting in which corrections, erasures and grand gestures are as important as the subject which occupies the foreground.

    Another major source of inspiration evident in this work is the artist’s tribute to Pop Art, in particular Andy Warhol and Lichtenstein. Condo’s Cartoon Abstractions similarly emphasises the gravity of the pictorial language present in cartoons, representing consumer products as emblems of a mythical American imagery. Moreover, the Cartoon Abstractions series highlights an evolution in the artist’s work, a fascination with and a craving for a chronicle of generic American imagery. By choosing to represent cartoons developed in the 1950s and 1960s, Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age’, Condo links his paintings to moments in American history where cultural identity was being reshaped and the influence of mass media in the culture of a nation was only just starting to emerge. In illustrating a realistic portrayal of the artificial, these works question the legitimacy of the subject in art and the stereotypes to which we adhere. Cartoons are a product comprised of part pure imagination and part cultural framework; their realistic aspects too are a function of the perspective in which they are considered.

    When Condo exhibited this work in the Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, he discussed with Emmanuelle de Noirmont the influence of Jazz music on his practice, in particular Free Jazz. This form of music emerged in America in the 1950s and 1960s and set the principle that the musician should start with a simple musical motif and improvise on it. The parallel with the Cartoons Abstractions and The Great Gazoo is particularly evident in the artist’s technique, the tremendous freedom in the composition of the canvas and the application of the paint. The lines are sketchy, colors radiate outside their linear bounds and, in certain fields of the canvas, individual details of the characters are duplicated in varying arrangements, contorted or slung over each other. Condo leaves intact the initial black outlines of the figures that not only serve as the formal inception of the central matter but also extend outwards to create an abstract configuration submerging the remainder of the canvas. Disjointed portrayals of the characters reimagined by the artist suggest spontaneity and echo a musical phrase which would be played in a variation of tones.

    Jazz, cartoons, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art - all these sources relate to a specific period in the history of the United States, the 1950s and 1960s, during which all these creative manifestations were shaping a cultural identity which is still alive today. By summoning all of them simultaneously, Condo not only blends them onto the canvas but also invokes and follows their spirit, making him impossible to categorize under any school or movement. Led by a creative force free from any constraint, virtuosic, and enthusiastic in his artistic practice, Condo offers us in The Great Gazoo a valuable insight into his creative process and inspirations.

  • Artist Biography

    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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Property of a Distinguished Asian Collector


The Great Gazoo

signed and dated 'Condo 2010' on the reverse
acrylic and charcoal on linen
165.2 x 165.8 cm. (65 x 65 1/4 in.)
Executed in 2010.

HK$4,500,000 - 6,500,000 

Sold for HK$5,550,000

Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019