Explore the exhibition
The portraits reflect a range of emotions simultaneously occurring within us, buried deep within our collective subconscious, revealing themselves through the figurative form. Condo has forged a relentlessly inventive path, deploying technical skill and canonical knowledge to channel the painterly modes of American and European art history into works of astonishing originality.
The Long Museum in Shanghai presents the largest solo exhibition by George Condo in Asia to date, featuring more than 200 paintings, sculptures, and drawings made throughout the artist’s career. Condo synthesizes a vast number of past pictorial languages and motifs to create, as he has put it, ‘composites of various psychological states painted in different ways.’
Often the presence of multiple historical moments can be felt in a single work. The new drawings and paintings on show are portraits, not of living individuals but of invented characters, represented in ways that combine various viewpoints to reflect different emotions erupting simultaneously.
Condo describes the figures, in works such as ‘Shadows and Light’ (2021), as ‘interacting in the shadows’, likening them to the way that light shines through gaps between trees in the forest; this is reflected throughout the exhibition in works such as ‘The Day I Stopped Drinking’ (2021) where an eye or a mouth can be seen peeping through the thicket of the composition. These characters are partially erased by the deconstructive process of painting.
Condo achieves this effect by first choosing challenging colour combinations to draw initial figures and forms, followed by a process of erasure with new layers of paint, thus only allowing certain elements of the original forms to survive. As well as capturing the complex mind of a person, Condo’s portraits have taken on landscape painting qualities, where gestural paint strokes resemble things we might see in the natural world; works in the exhibition such as ‘Escape from Humanity’ (2021) embody this as mental landscapes in and of themselves.
Condo revels in the complexity of his works saying, ‘I like to make it complicated for myself in terms of colours and tonality … it makes it more interesting to find my way through it all, to give it a shape, a form, a balance.’ The chaos that is present in the world is a driving force for creation and he sees his works as ‘harmonic resolutions’ to radical divisive elements in society.
The process of making art is a way for Condo to resolve these tensions, a form of personal conflict resolution via painting and drawing. Paintings including ‘A Day in the Park’ (2021) and ‘The Day They All Got Out’ (2021) display this dialectical paradigm – his harsh lines and colours provide a structure that allows the figurative forms to roam free, as if the lockdown had unleashed a mad rush to escape from shelter. Ultimately, these works are portraits of Condo’s mind, and his intention is that others will see their own minds reflected as well.
About the artist
Born in Concord, New Hampshire in 1957, George Condo lives and works in New York City. He studied Art History and Music Theory at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell before relocating to New York, where he worked as a printer for Andy Warhol. In 1985, Condo moved to Paris, subsequently spending a decade moving between New York and Europe. During this period, Condo invented his hallmark ‘artificial realism’ and made his first foray into sculpture. His 11ft gold leaf scultpure ‘Constellation of Voices’ (2019) was recently aquired as a permant gift to The Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
On view in London
The gallery is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm. In order to share a safe and positive experience, we ask that you book a timed reservation and read our visitor guidelines in full before you arrive.
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