NEW YORK – When he was asked to create the cover for Kanye West’s 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, George Condo produced a portrait of the rapper that came as a shock to many. Yet it was nothing new for the artist, whose unsettling and often lurid portraits brim with compelling oddness and grotesque beauty. Steeped in American postwar art and the European painting tradition – a young Condo worked for Warhol’s Factory, befriended Basquiat and Haring, then lived in Paris for a decade – his work blends pop culture with art history, often echoing the lexicon of Picasso, Goya and Bacon. A remarkable example of what Condo calls “Psychological Cubism,” Woman on Brown Chair captures an unsettling moment of mental chaos, when the subject’s contradictory emotions are visible all at once. Is she exposed to us in a moment of despair? The sitter gazes out with jarring eyes, crooked smile and protruding jaw, engaging the viewer in an uncomfortable visual exchange that is both repulsive and captivating.
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