George Condo (b. 1957)
George Condo (b. 1957)

The Black Insect

George Condo (b. 1957)
The Black Insect
signed and dated 'Condo 86' (lower right); signed again, titled, inscribed and dated again 'Black Insect Condo Paris 86' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
78¾ x 78½ in. (200 x 199.4 cm.)
Painted in 1986.
Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
Private collection, USA
Private collection, New York
Horizon Magazine, April 1987 (illustrated on the cover).
The World and I, vol. 2, issue 4, 1987.
George Condo: Mental States, exh. cat., New York, 2010, p. 163 (illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1987 Biennial Exhibition, March-July 1987, p. 41 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

In 1985, George Condo moved to Paris for what would be ten years. His time there resulted in the careful study of artistic masters of both the past and present - the museums of Paris provided for close examination of modernist abstraction like that found in the work of Pablo Picasso, and the proximity of the Parisian studios of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat allowed for fast friendships to develop. It was at this inspired time in the artist's life that he began work on his Expanding Canvas series, paintings that Condo himself has described as 'psychological landscapes' and 'detailed descriptions of undefinable thoughts' (G. Condo, as quoted by L. Hoptman, "Abstraction as a State of Mind," George Condo: Mental States, exh. cat., New York, 2011, p.24). Partially abstract, partially figurative, the compositions of these works spread over the surface of the artist's canvas providing the viewer with a dynamic, energetic experience, drawing the eye over the expanse of the painting.

The present lot, Black Insect, created at this juncture in Condo's career, along with his Dancing to Miles (1985-86) and Girl with Purple Dress (1986,) were chosen to be included in the 1987 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The curators of the exhibition, Richard Armstrong, Jon Hanhardt, Richard Marshall and Lisa Phillips, displayed these works in the same gallery as work by Willem de Kooning and Louise Bourgeois, positing Condo as the successor of a neo-expressionist legacy. Black Insect, in particular, was so striking and emblematic of the exhibition's aura that year that Horizon: The Magazine of the Arts chose to illustrate the work on the cover of their April 1987 issue which included their Biennial review.

Still today, Black Insect stands out as a rare example of Condo's early experimentation with 'figurative abstraction.' While the painting's background is a delightful candy-colored fete for the eye, the figure in the foreground remains readable and recalls the human body. Condo's success as an artist lies in his mastery of many facets of art history-in this important work he references modernist and surrealist artists Joan Miró and Paul Klee. Both Condo's chameleon-like qualities to mimic the great artists of the past, as well as his own unique vision, merge here seamlessly, asserting the artist's own place among great icons of the canon of Western art.

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