George Condo - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 13, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Skarstedt Gallery, New York
    McCabe Fine Art

  • Catalogue Essay

    Regarded as one of the most influential contemporary artists in the field of portraiture, George Condo’s immediately recognisable paintings render raw human characteristics and emotions in a manner that gives equal precedence to the beautiful as it does to the grotesque. Stranger on a Plane (2010) is emblematic of Condo’s imaginative technique of portraying a seemingly everyday subject but transforming it into something otherworldly. If it were not for the humorous twists in his works, they could seem threatening or terrifying in their warped and disfigured appearance. Jeering faces, jutting jaws, sharp protruding teeth and garish grimaces loom out of typically monochrome abysses – made all the more disturbing by their apparent composure and calmness.

    Stranger on a Plane (2010) presents a voluptuous seated woman in a yellow dress clutching a drink as a lit cigarette casts a waft of smoke, not from her lips, but her oddly enlarged right ear. Her enraged eyes seem to challenge the viewer for rudely staring at her, meanwhile her typically ‘Condoesque’ upturned jaw expresses exaggerated indignation. An eerie sense of quiet prevails as we feel compelled to look further into the painting as much as we are simultaneously repelled. Thus, Condo manages to emulate the paradoxical appeal which gruesome or unnatural oddities contain through his highly original style.

    By focusing on a theme steeped in history and tradition, his portraits simultaneously present ‘an artificial simulated American view of what European painting looked like’ (G. Condo, quoted in George Condo: Mental States, exh. cat., New Museum, New York, 2011, p. 12). Though instantly distinguishable as his own, Condo’s paintings display traces of a wide-reaching range of sources including, but not limited to, Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Diego Velazquez. The way in which Condo externalises the internal manifests itself most vigorously in the faces of his figures, thus linking his method of visualisation to that of Francis Bacon whose tortured subjects reveal their internal struggles. As Condo himself commented, '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.' (G. Condo quoted in S. Jeffries, ‘George Condo: “I was delirious. Nearly Died”’, in The Guardian, 10 February 2014).

    Summarised by Condo as psychological cubism or artificial realism, this style of painting combines a refined brushstroke and slightly saturated but lifelike palette, with a fragmented sense of three-dimensionality. Thus, the visual effect of the overall composition is one of unexpected harmony; his multifaceted figures generate an equally multifaceted response from the viewer. We remain transfixed in awe of the intricately constructed alien form before us and yet, as we delve further and scrutinize their features more closely, we begin to see shadows of ourselves in their intimidating faces.

  • 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 from the Estate of Dr. Fredric S. Brandt, Miami

Ο ◆15

Stranger on a Plane

oil on canvas
122 x 102.5 cm (48 x 40 3/8 in.)
Signed, titled and dated 'George Condo 2010 "Stranger on a Plane"' on the reverse.

£150,000 - 250,000 

Sold for £194,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 14 October 2015 7pm