George Condo - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Zurich

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny – Musée Maillol, George Condo: The Lost Civilization, April 17 – August 17, 2009

  • Catalogue Essay

    Monsters are just as beautiful as maidens.

    “Everything enchants him and his incontestable talent seems to be at the service of a fantasy that is a balanced combination of the delicious and the horrible, the abject and the delicate.” — Apollinaire on Picasso, 1912

    During a recent New York City presentation, one critic playfully described George Condo’s work as the meeting place “between Picasso and the Looney Tunes.” Informed by his powerful sense of irony and multifarious imagination, Condo’s work is armed with a unique painting style, employing the virtuoso draftsmanship and paint handling of the Old Masters. His subject matter and array of “everyday” characters spring largely from his overactive mind. Utilizing the traditional medium of oil on canvas, his work recalls art historical portraiture. The subjects he paints are as elegant and alienating as they are absurd and comical; any notion of the classical is subverted through an outrageous morphology. He has been creating beautifully disturbing images for nearly three decades, specializing in provocative paintings with an often-comical tinge.

    Condo has introduced a range of distinctly contemporary types: figures that, despite their apparently commonplace social roles, seem to belong to the furthest extremes of the human psyche. In paintings like these, which in his words “reflect the madness of everyday life,” meticulous attention to naturalistic detail is coupled with elements of the grotesque and the absurd.

    The Nudist Couple exemplifies Condo’s multiformity at its best; trademark lopsided eyes, toothy mouths, pinched eyes, and bulbous bodies. Overgrown by fur-like brushstrokes and brandishing fangs, they recline and stare defiantly at the viewer, and yet, it is not repelling. Perhaps it is the counterbalance provided by the delicacy in the ears, lined in lilac and rosy hues — the landscape of clear blue skies and lush green grass creating the duality of aggression and allure. The alchemists had a term for that “look”; they called it vile figura (or ugly face), and they considered it prima materia, the primal stuff of the soul. In The Nudist Couple Condo has captured it and made it distinctly his own. Through an enormous memory bank of art historical references Condo uses his memory as the muse, explaining “They’re the ordinary, nice people, you know. That’s what my relatives look like. That’s what the early American settlers looked like.”

  • 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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The Nudist Couple

Oil on canvas.
80 x 80 in. (203.2 x 203.2 cm.)
Signed and dated “Condo 08” upper left; also signed, titled and dated “Condo 08 The Nudist Couple” on the reverse.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $842,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York