GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
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GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
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Property of an Important Collector
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)

Untitled (Painting Drawing 6)

Details
GEORGE CONDO (B. 1957)
Untitled (Painting Drawing 6)
oil on canvas
72 x 60 in. (182.9 x 152.4 cm.)
Painted in 2011.
Provenance
Skarstedt, New York
Sprüth Magers Gallery, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2013

Brought to you by

Kathryn Widing
Kathryn Widing Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of the 21st Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Dropped against a background of textured silvery gray, the figure of George Condo’s Untitled (Painting Drawing 6) exists in a perplexing cacophony of the beautiful and the grotesque. A slender arm reaches behind a head of meticulously manicured hair, four delicately poised fingers pulling back tresses of curls to reveal the bulging, monstrous ear beneath. Bursting from the figure’s visage, plump jowls collapse in on themselves as they hang over an elongated jaw and gaping lips. On either side of an ovoid nose, luscious eyelashes highlight two distant eyes of varying sizes as they stare indifferently in varying directions, apparently detached by the chaos unfolding around them. The figure herself, in fact, appears nearly unphased by the evolving madness, her posture quiet and composed, expressing apathy to the banalities of portrait sitting. This metamorphosis of what may have once been a charming face into a cubist derangement is entirely emblematic of both Condo’s signature deconstructive style and his long developed ideas of psychological artistic expression, which have become increasingly prevalent in the recent years of his practice.
With a career spanning over four decades, George Condo has redefined and reinvented his artistic methodology numerous times, all the while maintaining the idiosyncratic presence felt across his entire oeuvre. His Painting Drawing series began around 2008, but its roots date back to his early ventures into abstraction in the late 80s and early 90s. Condo’s approach to abstraction was incredibly distinct from that of his contemporaries; canvases filled with fragments of facial features, body parts, and whispers of forms that can only truly be described as “Condo-esque,” the artist’s works from this period utilized figure as a method of abstraction rather than abstraction’s opposite. Toeing the line between abstraction and figuration in a way which both excluded and included them in either category, Condo’s explosive and expanding canvases shaped his approach to uncanny forms in his works to come. Chasing this discovered intersection between two seemingly opposite modes, Condo would continue to explore his figurative abstraction, eventually culminating in the nonsensical and enthralling style of his Painting Drawings.
In addition to abstraction, Condo also entertained the concept of caricatures at length throughout his career. Portraits of fanciful dignitaries, human-animal hybrids, and a slew of monstrous characters have populated his portfolio since its early days and Condo’s penchant for toying with art historical precedents has only grown. The artist’s disturbed renditions of classical portraiture explicate the absurdity and elitism intrinsic in the narrative of art history – in his own words, critiquing “the aspects of human nature that really bother me” (G. Condo, quoted in S. Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London, 2015, p. 181). His venture into this kind of mutilated portraiture was not, however, the first of its kind; artists like Francisco Goya have utilized the visuals of the grotesque in pointed social critiques of classism and inequity, and the Surrealists, with their visceral and intense bodily imagery, brought the jarring realities they saw around them to the forefront of the canvas. Yet the tongue-and-cheek nature of Condo’s portraiture brings a level of frivolity to the subject that is quite unique to him. Interested in the qualities of supposed “low art” in a high art setting, Condo has often sought the use of caricature in works as an added layer of critique, explaining, “caricatures are one of the lowest common denominators in art… the forbidden apples… clowns, caricatures, all the don’ts” (G. Condo, quoted in S. Baker, George Condo: Painting Reconfigured, London, 2015, p. 184). The graphic deconstruction of the figure’s face in Untitled (Painting Drawing 6) is coupled with a zoomorphic, cartoonish style that brings the work from the disturbing into the laughable, yet still exists in harmony with its more serious tone. Condo, once again, is performing a balancing act between disparate fields: the perceived low art of comedy and caricature, and the deeply classical “high” art of portraiture.
A chimera of caricature, cubism, and portraiture, Untitled (Painting Drawing 6) links Condo inextricably to the larger canon of art history. Through the use of what Condo deems his “psychological cubism” the artist conflates the highly posed and manicured portrait with the unseemly realities of what lies beneath. According to the artist, as Picasso and cubism sought to reveal three dimensional objects on a two dimensional plane through the depiction of multiple angles at once, so too do Condo and psychological cubism seek to expose numerous mental states on a single visage. This unmasking of the portrait’s subject allows Condo’s work to take on a humorous quality as an obvious caricature of its source material – the classic, seated portrait – but this also in turn calls into question the nature of the source material itself. As Condo exposes the true, disastrous inner state of the portrait sitter, the calm and poised portrait of art history becomes an entirely absurd notion. If the classic portrait is so far from depicting the truth of the sitter, as Condo suggests it is, then any portrait becomes a caricature itself, with only Condo’s reflecting a cartoonish reality. These portraits fall into what Condo calls his “unedited human disasters,” a body of work so garishly expressive it is difficult not to recall it when faced with any bit of portraiture, whether that be Da Vinci, Picasso, or Bacon. Untitled (Painting Drawing 6) is firmly implanted in this body of unforgettably absurd portraits; a complete transformation of what could have been a classically beautiful nude, Condo has rendered this psychological portrait unmissable.

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