George Condo - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 15, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, George Condo – Cartoon Abstractions, March 31 - May 26, 2010

  • Literature

    George Condo – Cartoon Abstractions, exh. cat., Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris, 2010, pp. 28-29 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "That’s why I work with a cast of characters, all created carefully. As each of them becomes real, so do their environments, their place of being. Sometimes, I think they even come from some imaginary character’s mind.”

    GEORGE CONDO, 1992

    The present lot, Cartoon Abstraction, from 2005, inspired by cartoon characters from the imagination of Tex Avery and the wildly successful Hanna-Barbera toons in the Golden Age of Hollywood, portrays at once a lively and playful duo obfuscated and inverted with wickedly miscreant alter egos. Condo gathered his inspiration from the plentiful and splashy iconography of cartoons which in their own era mirrored both a world being rebuilt and expanded in the wake of the Second World War. Exalted as a link between the figurative practice commenced by Picasso straying to the acutely abstracted Woman I of Willem de Kooning into the transcendental realm of contemporary painting, Condo scrupulously attenuates his figures, forms, and techniques from a boundless sweep of art history, markedly from Pop and Cubism but hugely indebted to Old Masters as well. His richly pictorial works have cemented him as one of the most creative, if not perplexing, artists of our time.

    Punctuated with pastels perforating the foreground, the present lot is a visual carnival of wayward surrealism, operating at a delicate intersection among abstraction, subjectivity, geometry and illusion. His technique enables him to realize tremendous freedom in the composition of the canvas and the application of the paint. Aligning with his archetypal deformed portraits of the female nude, his cartoons are rendered as anamorphic to a degree. The lines are sketchy, colors ooze 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 immersing the remainder of the canvas. Disjointed portrayals of the characters reimagined by the artist suggest spontaneity through the joint effort of dusty, sparse charcoal and the constructive use of paint.

    As Condo once explained, “It’s about dismantling one reality and constructing another form the same parts” (J. Higgie, “Time’s Fool,” Frieze Magazine, May 2007). Cartoon Abstraction is markedly an epitome of this manufactured movement of artificial realism, in that the artist illustrates a realistic portrayal of the artificial. As cartoons are a true product of part pure imagination and part cultural framework, their realistic aspects too are a function of the perspective in which they are considered. Moreover, the present lot highlights a newfound evolution in the artist’s idiom, a fascination with and a craving for a chronicle of generic American imagery through the lens of his mental states. Through these means, his portraits not only reveal the dual nature of humanity but also disclose and analyze the stereotypes to which we adhere. By choosing to represent cartoons developed in the 1950s and 1960s, moments in American history in which cultural identity was being reshaped, Condo disassembles beliefs, so emphasizing the influence of mass media in the culture of a nation. As Tim Teeman once described it, “He likes these works of ‘artificial realism’ to shock, ‘but not negatively; these paintings put the pieces of a shattered life together, not shatter a life.’ (T. Teeman, “George Condo: ‘I would love to do a Prince Charles in full regalia holding a daisy’, The Times, October 8, 2011). In displacing the cartoons from their initial context, Condo declares their self-disaffecting nature.

    Akin to the project of Pop art masters such as Warhol, Condo’s Cartoon Abstraction underscores the gravity of the pictorial language present in cartoons representing consumer products as emblems of a mythical American imagery. In the 1950s and 1960s, Abstract Expressionism developed alongside mainstream animation and Condo’s Cartoon Abstraction perfectly encapsulates the vigor of both movements. Moreover, the painting advances the pervasive notion of the ubiquity of American culture in the post-war period. Condo, as a master of melded forms and jumbled moods, provides a stylistic influence that is at once immediately accessible but impossible to describe. The canvas is the one location where the whimsical Droopy dog coalesces with the shadowy edge of Francisco de Goya. Fusing together fragments of art history, Condo’s paintings forthrightly marry elements of the sensational and the shocking, galvanizing a mental shock that disconnects the grasps of reality on human perception. Furthermore, with the juxtaposition of realism and abstraction, the present lot echos the artist’s highly personal awareness of the anomaly of our own contemporary reality, with a self-actualizing attitude of authenticity and artificiality.

    Condo’s Cartoon Abstraction meditates on the influence of media in molding the collective American unconscious through apparently childish subject matter, bringing into question the absurdity of reality. Upon first scanning the canvas, the dynamic duo appears calculated to jolt the viewer. With bulbous noses, mutated eyes, gritty lines and physically mutated in a singular way, the emotion ranges from lunacy to listlessness. However, when details are examined, the picture that materializes is not a boorish clamor at human logic but rather a beautifully crafted amalgam of art history and American cultural iconography. Exceeding a sheer formal exercise, Cartoon Abstraction is an inquiry of the human psyche rendered as a sincere cartoon.

  • 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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Cartoon Abstraction

acrylic, charcoal on linen
78 x 108 in. (198.1 x 274.3 cm.)
Signed and dated "Condo 2010" on the reverse.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $305,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 May 2014 7PM