GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
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Please note that at our discretion some lots may b… Read more
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)

Easter Sunday

Details
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
Easter Sunday
signed and dated 'Condo 2011' (on the overlap)
oil on linen
72 x 60in. (182.8 x 152.5cm.)
Painted in 2011
Provenance
Skarstedt Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011.
Special notice
Please note that at our discretion some lots may be moved immediately after the sale to our storage facility at Momart Logistics Warehouse: Units 9-12, E10 Enterprise Park, Argall Way, Leyton, London E10 7DQ. At King Street lots are available for collection on any weekday, 9.00 am to 4.30 pm. Collection from Momart is strictly by appointment only. We advise that you inform the sale administrator at least 48 hours in advance of collection so that they can arrange with Momart. However, if you need to contact Momart directly: Tel: +44 (0)20 7426 3000 email: pcandauctionteam@momart.co.uk. Christie's has provided a minimum price guarantee and has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold. See the Important Notices in the Conditions of Sale for more information. Christie’s has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie’s has guaranteed to the seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee.

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Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted in 2011—the year the artist’s major touring retrospective George Condo: Mental States opened at the New Museum, New York—Easter Sunday is a scintillating large-scale composition by George Condo. Faces, curves and facets flash in pearlescent hues of peach, powder-blue, silver and lilac against a pale khaki ground. Marshalled by deft, sinuous black lines, the forms assemble a dynamic ‘all-over’ surface that recalls both the Abstract Expressionism of de Kooning and the crystalline Cubism of Picasso. The picture clusters towards its centre, where flares of bright yellow illuminate nestled eyes and toothy grins; some of these features are joined by cartoonish rabbit ears, perhaps inspiring the title’s playful reference to Easter. The tuxedoed figure of Rodrigo—a roguish manservant who reappears across Condo’s oeuvre—emerges at least three times from the foreground, his bow-tie flitting through the action like a butterfly. Relating both to the musically-inspired ‘expanded canvases’ Condo began painting in the 1980s and to the ‘drawing paintings’ he first made in 2008, Easter Sunday is a feat of painterly, graphic and improvisational brilliance, riffing on art history and Condo’s own oeuvre with the skill and daring of a jazz virtuoso.

Condo studied both music theory and art history at university, and these themes have interacted in his practice since its beginnings in 1980s New York. Jazz, in particular, informs his approach to the ‘expanded canvases’, which are governed by a compositional rather than narrative logic and conjure complex, rule-bending fabrics of form, tone, motif and structure. With literary and visual analogies in genres such as Beat poetry and Surrealist automatic writing—Condo counted both Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs among his friends—jazz’s free-form improvisation provides a powerful metaphor for Condo’s postmodern approach to painting, whereby ideas from the Old Masters to Abstract Expressionism, Cubism and Pop are held in dazzling simultaneity, and formal harmonies and dissonances pushed to their limits.

Condo has described the major early ‘expanded canvases’ Diaries of Milan (1984, Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Dancing to Miles (1985-1986, The Broad, Santa Monica) as ‘improvisations’ on the ‘chords’ provided by the symbolic content of the Old Masterly pastiches he had painted previously. These motifs included swords, bunches of grapes, rabbits, and his own spelled-out name. In Easter Sunday, the chords are characters and shapes that run through several decades of Condo’s work, including the recurring rabbits and the dastardly Rodrigo. Like a vision of his interior creative landscape, the tableau chatters with the noise of a crowded party scene. Its elegant, high-modernist palette counterpoises the manic energy of its grinning teeth and staring eyes: gleeful, anarchic and barely repressed, they seem to embody the psychic drives that lie beneath our outward surfaces, and the busy, fugitive complexity of unfiltered thought. ‘I describe what I do’ said Condo in 2014, ‘as psychological cubism. Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one moment. I do the same with psychological states’ (G. Condo, quoted in S. Jeffries, ‘George Condo: “I was delirious. Nearly died”’, The Guardian, 10 February, 2014).

Condo’s ‘drawing paintings’ combine charcoal, pencil and pastel with oil paint, creating graphic-painterly hybrids with rich, variegated surfaces. While Easter Sunday is entirely painted, its black lineation—applied in swift strokes that drip and splash towards the lower reaches—likewise speaks to the musical, contrapuntal vitality Condo finds in superimposing different techniques within one canvas. ‘The idea of velocity and multiple tempos in painting is very interesting,’ he has said, ‘the idea that certain parts of a painting can be painted very slowly and other parts very quickly … if you think about music there’s no less intensity to the slow movement than the fast movement’ (G. Condo quoted in S. Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London 2015, p. 113). Indeed, the present painting is symphonic in its reach and depth, every inch active with modulated tones and syncopated rhythms, soaring topnotes and chromatic crescendos.

The French post-structuralist Félix Guattari lived in the same apartment building as Condo in Paris during the 1980s, and was fascinated by the unstable structure and semiotics in the painter’s work, which he saw in relation to his own ‘schizoanalytic’ approach to postmodern society. Working with Gilles Deleuze, Guattari used the concept of the ‘rhizome’ to describe a non-hierarchical network that connects any point to any other point, without beginning, end or linear narrative, presenting history and culture as a map-like profusion of attractions and influences. It is an image that chimes with the expansive multiplicity of Easter Sunday, where bunnies, butlers and body parts clamour for attention within a prismatic painterly lattice, and art’s past, present and future are brought to bear on a single plane. For Guattari, too, music—played in time more than in space—provided a way in to Condo’s paintings. ‘We must not forget,’ he wrote in 1990, ‘… that you trained as a musician, and you are still a musician at heart. With you the polyphony of lines, forms and colours belong to a temporal dimension rather than one of spatial coordination. Your paintings are like non-arpeggio chords which unleash their harmonies and their melodic potential’ (F. Guattari, ‘Introduction (Paris 1990)’, in George Condo: The Lost Civilization, exh. cat. Musée Maillol, Paris 2009, p. 18).

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