GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
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GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
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Where Christie’s has provided a Minimum Price Guar… Read more PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTOR
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)

Heads and Toes

Details
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
Heads and Toes
signed and dated 'Condo 2011' (upper left)
acrylic, pastel and charcoal on linen
42 x 40in. (106.7 x 101.6cm.)
Executed in 2011
Provenance
Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist).
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2017.
Exhibited
New York, Skarstedt Gallery, George Condo, Drawing Paintings, 2011, (illustrated in colour, pl. 9; in the accompanying artist folio).
Special notice
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Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

An electrifying rhapsody on the human condition, Heads and Toes (2011) stands among the finest examples of George Condo’s celebrated Drawing Paintings. From a virtuosic blend of acrylic, charcoal and pastel, a fragmentary chorus of faces, features and limbs explodes across the canvas: eyes, teeth, breasts, fingers, feet, noses and jaws merge and collide to form a writhing, hybrid vision. Condo’s palette is one of opulent grandeur, juxtaposing deep blue and purple tones with jewel-like flashes of orange, red, yellow, lime green, violet and teal. Bright white lines dark across the surface like ghostly traces of previous drawings, creating a complex interplay of geometries, angles and rhythms. Textures shift in and out of focus, at once chalky, translucent and thick with impasto. Condo’s Drawing Paintings, created by combining both disciplines, extend his pursuit of what he describes as ‘psychological Cubism’: a desire to render conflicting states of consciousness simultaneously. The fusion of painting and drawing enhances this mission, adding another layer of collision between opposites. As if refracted through a mirror, the present work envisages a world of dualism, contradiction and cacophony, where polarised extremities—heads and toes, beauty and horror, charcoal and brush—sit side by side.

Coming to prominence in 1980s New York before moving to Paris, Condo honed his craft between America and Europe. Rooted in a deep knowledge of art history, his paintings navigate centuries of influence, plundering visual languages ranging from antiquity and the Old Masters to graffiti and contemporary cartoons. ‘People might say that one of my paintings looks like Guston meets Monet in a Picasso format in Cézanne’s world, but ultimately I consider it to be just about the knowledge of painting’, he explains. ‘You want to reach a point where your work is the sum total of everything that ever happened before you’ (G. Condo, quoted in George Condo: Artificial Realism, exh. cat. Gary Tatintsian Gallery, Moscow 2008, p. 72). His concept of ‘psychological Cubism’ ties in with this belief, using humour, caricature and fragmented art-historical references to capture the multifaceted nature of the human psyche. Poised between figurative and abstract registers, the present work captures the full range of Condo’s visual compass, charting a thrilling course from Old Masterly chiaroscuro effects through Picasso’s Cubist portraits, the Transparencies of Francis Picabia, the improvisations of Wassily Kandinsky, Willem de Kooning’s Women, Francis Bacon’s screaming heads and the hybrid anatomical visions of Jean-Michel Basquiat: his former comrade and contemporary on the New York art scene.

Condo’s Drawing Paintings stand among the clearest expressions of his technical prowess. Informed by his particular fascination with jazz, honed during his musical studies at university, the artist weaves complex arrangements of line and texture, working at different speeds and rhythms that leave their mark upon the canvas. Pastel, paint and charcoal—much like the faces and bodies of his characters—become indistinguishable from one another, their qualities melding across the surface of the work. ‘I love to draw and I love to paint and I thought, why should there be any distinction or hierarchy between those two mediums?’, Condo has explained. ‘Why not put them together as a single thing?’ (G. Condo, quoted in J. Belcove, ‘George Condo Interview’, Financial Times, 23 April 2013). In Heads and Toes, the effect fluctuates between luxuriant painterly sheens, raw graffiti-like scrawl and sinuous graphic simplicity, bringing foreground and background into knotted alignment. The work’s emotive registers, too, are similarly entangled: joy becomes fear becomes pain becomes laughter, as Condo’s rabble of mutants and maidens wrestle for dominance. It is a vivid reflection of the synchronicity, discord and chaos that underpins human experience, filtered through the prism of the artist’s unique imagination.

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