- George Condo
- The Rock
- signed and dated 2010 on the overlap
- oil, acrylic and charcoal on linen
Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich
Ralph Rugoff, ‘The Enigma of Jean Louis’, George Condo: Existential Portraits, Berlin 2006, p. 7
Drawing on vastly diverse painting practices – from Ingres and Velázquez to Picasso, Matisse and Warhol – and incorporating references from popular culture such as cartoons and comic strips, George Condo internalizes a multitude of art historical sources to create a distinctive pictorial language which is characteristically his own. With portraiture making up the core of his oeuvre, Standing Female Figure and The Rock depict the phantasmagoric hybridization that is synonymous with Condo’s extensive exploration of the furthest extremes of the human psyche.
“In the beginning I took fragments of architecture to create a person, now I take a person and fragment them to make architecture.” (George Condo cited in: Laura Hoptman, ‘Abstraction as a State of Mind’, in: Exh. Cat., New York, New Museum, George Condo: Mental States, New York, 2011, p. 24). Since the 1980s, Condo has pioneered fantastical beings in his iconic portraits, redefining the conventional notion of figurative portraiture. Referring to his style as ‘Psychological Cubism’, the artist emulates Cubism through the act of rendering the various psychological states of his characters concurrently. The deformed nature of Condo’s imaginary sitters are therefore not abstractions of humanity but are representations of the raw and disconcerting reality of the human psyche, or as the artist himself elucidates “essentially what I am painting is […] a new conjunctive hyper-reality or hybrid image showing the simultaneous presences” (George Condo cited in: Ralph Rugoff, George Condo: Existential Portraits, Berlin 2006, p. 8). Thus, while the artist portrays imaginary characters, they are indeed contemporary depictions of the quotidian world.
Going beyond mere mimesis, these two visually arresting paintings utterly embody Condo’s hybrid-topography of the human figure: “Sometimes, there’s no difference in my paintings between what can happen to a woman, an object, a landscape, or an abstraction. A face could be treated like a very abstract passage in a landscape” (George Condo in conversation with Anney Bonney, in: BOMB Magazine, Summer 1992, online). In both of the present works, the artist depicts curvaceous figures, with individual body parts, such as the male character’s upwards bulging belly, elongated mound-like chin and the female figure’s breasts and round swollen stomach, serving as the hills and bends of a landscape. Among the other features of these two playfully grotesque sitters that are quintessential to Condo’s practice are their bulbous noses, fused neck and heads, protruding ears, grimace-like bites, the male character’s swollen cheeks and the frenzied stare and toothy grimace of the female figure. However, despite their grotesque transmutations, Condo renders his sitters with great sympathy. Set in destitute and isolated places that are entirely blacked-out, Condo concocts protagonists who are at once repulsive and seductive, sinister and vulnerable, deformed but likeable. Executed in the same year, Standing Female Figure and The Rock epitomise Condo’s unique ability to create unedited accounts of the paradoxes and complexities of human nature which are both bitingly satirical and curiously poignant.