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George Condo (B. 1957)
George Condo (B. 1957)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more
George Condo (B. 1957)

Dancing Figures

Details
George Condo (B. 1957)
Dancing Figures
signed and dated 'Condo 2010' (upper left)
acrylic, charcoal and pastel on linen
60 x 72 in. (152.4 x 183 cm.)
Executed in 2010.
Provenance
Skarstedt Gallery, New York
Private collection
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. This is such a lot. This indicates both in cases where Christie's holds the financial interest on its own, and in cases where 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 successfully and may incur a loss if the sale is not successful.
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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

George Condo’s Dancing Figures is a ballet of colour, form and melodic arrangement. Across the monumental canvas, Condo has conjured a troupe of characters who collide, tesselate and fracture in a dizzying pageant of drawn and painted shape. Facets of opal blue, yellow, lavender and pink spotlight faces and negative space alike, flashing against a fawn ground laced with charcoal pentimenti. Snatches of recognisable features – eyes and teeth, buttocks and breasts, bow-ties, red-painted fingernails – by turns emerge and are subsumed in chaos. De-Kooning-esque lines scaffold faces and bodies; three-dimensional form mingles with geometric abstraction. Continuing the themes of the ‘expanded canvases’ that Condo first made in the 1980s, Dancing Figures’ content is governed by a compositional rather than narrative logic. As a painter, Condo adopts a similar approach to a classical composer, counterpoising flurries of busy activity with more quiet, open sections; with its dynamic motion, overlapping themes and vibrant contrasts, Dancing Figures is a choreographic masterpiece.
Taken as a whole, Dancing Figures’ composition feels almost like a puzzle: the moment one picks out a form, it slips back into the excitement of the whole. It is as if multiple drawings have been overlaid together on the same page. The effect is far from claustrophobic. The work’s lilting forms and vital colours, pirouetting through a balmy, fresco-like field of pale terracotta, conjure an expansive sense of light and space. In its subtly charged palette as well as in its fragmented structure, Dancing Figures evokes not only De Kooning’s ‘Women’ but also the luscious, prismatic Cubism of Picasso. The work’s schematised shapes, raised limbs and profiled heads, and its earthy tones shot through with hues of lilac and blue, find clear parallels in Les Demoiselles dAvignon (1907).
Such echoes are no accident. Throughout his career, Condo has been immersed in an intelligent conversation with the history of painting, and Picasso has remained a key touchstone and influence. ‘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). Dancing Figures, with its disjointed faces and bodies held together in a fabric of muscular complexity and poise, is a triumph of this multifaceted approach.
In his rule-bending improvisation of forms and tones, Condo – a student of music theory as well as art history – also draws upon his relationship with musical composition. Dance and music, of course, go hand in hand; in Dancing Figures we can see Condo waltzing with his brush, revelling in the physical joy of making shapes in space. ‘You are still a musician at heart’, said the theorist Félix Guattari to Condo. ‘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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