George Condo - Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, May 14, 2024 | Phillips
  • “What are the forbidden apples of art that should not be picked?”
    —George Condo
    One of George Condo’s most striking compositions, Rodrigo and His Mistress, 2007, centers on the painter’s notorious valet character and his romantic exploits. The flirtatious scene is a pinnacle of Condo’s exploration of the fiery and depraved character Rodrigo, who he describes as “the valet wearing his red jacket and his bow tie [who] when you hand him the keys to your car he drives off and you never see him again… He’s the guy you read about in the newspapers, he’s the politician that was leading a double life.”i Here, Rodrigo grins mischievously while presenting his risqué companion, who wears a sheer negligee and makes a suggestive gesture.

    Rodrigo’s Mistress

     

    Rodrigo and His Mistress was initially exhibited at Andrea Caratsch Gallery in George Condo: New Works in 2007. Hung alongside the similarly composed Rodrigo at his Wedding, 2007, the present example represents the titular character’s descent into impropriety. Presenting the wife and the mistress side-by-side, Condo highlights the duplicity of Rodrigo’s maneuvers. The raunchy mistress is a colorful addition to the cast of characters who populate, in Jennifer Higgie’s words, “a ribald world of crazed, comic engagement, theatrical logic, and a furious indifference to conventional niceties.”ii Her presentation alongside Rodrigo exemplifies Condo’s aptitude for exploring human folly.

     

    Condo’s Cast of Characters 

     

    Rodrigo and Jean Louis, a similarly bow-tied butler, make up the two of Condo’s most recognizable recurring characters. In Condo’s elaborate but loosely defined narrative, each holds a day job in the service industry while also leading an extraordinary double life. The formal smoking jacket and frilly tuxedo shirt worn by Rodrigo belie what he feels beneath the surface and his escapades after-hours. To this point, a pair of Condo’s Rodrigo works, The Internal Rage of Rodrigo and The Infernal Rage of Rodrigo, spotlights the character’s emotional turbulence. Jean Louis, who first appeared in 2005, laid the groundwork for his more volatile counterpart. As Simon Baker identifies: “The tightrope walk of appearance, propriety and repression that marks out Jean Louis… turns into an explosion in the firework factory for Rodrigo, who seems about a millisecond away from his ‘id’ at all times.”iii

    “The message I have distilled is ‘The artist must attack his canvas like a hunter attacks his prey,’… That is the spirit of painting.”
    —George Condo

    Psychological Cubism

     

    The expressions of the titular subjects in Rodrigo and His Mistress exemplify Condo’s concept of psychological cubism. As Calvin Tompkins defines the term: “instead of showing different facets of an object simultaneously, as Picasso and Braque did, [Condo] paints different and often conflicting emotions in the same face.” The exaggerated features of Rodrigo and his mistress are difficult to read, grinning on the surface but seemingly enraged and unsettled. Rodrigo’s bulbous nose, cheeks, eyes and ears typify Condo’s unique cartoonish stylization, while the mistress’ face nods more directly to Picasso’s formal influence. A row of pearly teeth extends beyond her mouth while mismatched eyes—one more realistically fleshy and one raw and exposed—sit atop Condo’s signature clown-like nose. At the same time, Condo riffs on formal portrait conventions: the female subject is seated while her male partner, positioned behind her, rests a familial but distanced hand on the back of her chair. Condo’s choice is all the more surprising—and ingenious—when comparing this work to the wedding portrait in which Rodrigo is groping his bride. 

     

    William Holman Hunt, The Awakening Conscience, 1853. Tate Gallery, London

     

    On his strategy of ‘Psychological Cubism,’ Condo explains: “Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one moment. I do the same with psychological states. Four of them can occur simultaneously. Like glimpsing a bus with one passenger howling over a joke they’re hearing down the phone, someone else asleep, someone else crying – I’ll put them all in one face.” In this way, the grinning couple is both seemingly inviting us to watch their indecency and seething that they’ve been caught. The blend of seduction and repulsion is like watching a train wreck from which we can’t look away. Knowing that the extramarital exploit can’t end well for Rodrigo, we view them with wry amusement. 

    Collector’s Digest

     

    • A major figure of late 20th and 21st century painting, the influence of George Condo’s unique approach to figuration and the tradition of portraiture can be felt in the work of a diverse range of contemporary artists including Nicole Eisenman and Dana Schutz.
    • Since his major international travelling mid-career survey Mental States in 2011, Condo has continued to exhibit widely, representing the United States at the 2013 and 2019 International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia. 
    • Now represented by Hauser & Wirth, his paintings are held in important international collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., amongst others. 

     

    i George Condo in Simon Baker, George Condo: Painting reconfigured, London, 2015, p. 238

    ii Jennifer Higgie, “Time’s Fool,” Frieze, 5 May, 2007, online

    iii Simon Baker, George Condo: Painting reconfigured, p. 241

    • Provenance

      Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Zürich
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Zürich, Galerie Andrea Caratsch, George Condo: New Works, June 10–July 27, 2007
      Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny - Musée Maillol, George Condo: La Civilisation perdue, April 17–August 17, 2009, pp. 108, 162 (illustrated, p. 108)

    • 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.

      View More Works

Ο◆26

Rodrigo and His Mistress

signed and dated "Condo 07" on the reverse
oil on canvas
53 x 46 in. (134.6 x 116.8 cm)
Painted in 2007.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $660,400

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Kolberg
Associate Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206
CKolberg@phillips.com

Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 May 2024