Robert Longo - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 19, 2022 | Phillips
  • 'My work exists somewhere between movies and monuments.' —Robert LongoRenowned for his ability to depict profound psychological states in a photorealistic style, Robert Longo engaged with the politics of image-making, drawing from advertisements, newspapers, film and television, to form a body of work that walks the tight-rope between visual exuberance and political disillusionment.


    In Men in the Cities, arguably Longo’s most well-known series, the artist depicts his well-dressed friends collapsing forward and backward, contorted in raw emotion. Setting up a camera on the rooftop of his apartment building in Lower Manhattan, Longo threw objects towards and tied ropes around, his friends, and photographed their reactive movements, capturing their protective and evasive gestures. The images were projected on to paper and Longo’s hyper realistic treatment resulted in rich velvety black figures starkly contrasted against clean white backgrounds.


    The idea drew from a neo-noir Rainer Fassbinder film titled An American Soldier. In one of the film’s final scenes, two gangsters are shot and their deaths are depicted in an elegantly poetic suspension of animation. The slow-motion reel elevates their movements to that of a dance - a duet of the exaggerated and serene. Longo described the scene as ‘a high compact kind of bang; at the same time, it has this incredibly fluid grace, the speed of grace.’ The visual likeness of the film and the artist’s series cannot be ignored, but there was a larger theme at play. The 1970s and early 80s saw a desensitization growing in the American youth, who had found a new form of entertainment – depicting death. Instead of showing the grotesque of real life, action was becoming ever more stylized. Longo said, ‘What ended up replacing dance or sports, was the way people die in movies.’ Fitting then that a work from Men in the Cities features in the 2000 thriller, American Psycho: a perfectly rendered portrait of a man evading death aptly decorates the apartment of a perfectly rendered Manhattanite serial killer. Perhaps Patrick Bateman’s character saw himself as a mirror image of Longo’s portrait, the clean-cut suit fluidly evading capture.  


    The series was shown at the artist’s first solo show at Metro Pictures, New York in 1981, instantly becoming iconic of the ‘Pictures Generation.’ The group, which was made up of contemporaries of Longo such as Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger, investigated the way meaning is made and circulated in modern society, drawing from semiotics and poststructuralist theory to address the hypnotizing power of the media.

    'It seems like the gestures of Men in the Cities are very much about the time we live in, that "jerking" into now.' —Robert Longo 


Property of a Private US Collector


Eric, from Men in the Cities

Lithograph, on Arches Cover paper, with full margins.
I. 145.4 x 86.4 cm (57 1/4 x 34 in.)
S. 177.2 x 101.6 cm (69 3/4 x 40 in.)

Signed, dated and numbered 44/50 in pencil (there were also 10 artist's proofs), published by Hamilton-Selway Fine Art, West Hollywood, California, framed.

Full Cataloguing

£15,000 - 20,000 

Sold for £44,100

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 19-20 January 2022