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Linear Connection

Linear Connection
acrylic, charcoal and pastel on linen
50 x 60 in. (127 x 152.4 cm.)
Executed in 2010.
Skarstedt Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2010

Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Head of Department

Lot Essay

At the confluence of contemporary figurative painting and art history, George Condo’s colorful tableaux are populated by a range of idiosyncratic characters created out of the artist’s wonderfully transgressive graphic line. In Linear Connection, this line traces out a cast of characters that populate many of Condo’s painting from this period. Curvaceous nudes, Picasso-like faces, disjointed limbs, and of course Rodrigo—Condo’s ‘disapproving butler,’ a figure who observes everything, but says nothing. Painted in 2010, the year Condo was included in the Whitney Biennial, Linear Connection defines the artist’s approach to portraiture; by focusing only on what he considers to be the fundamental elements of the human body, he extracts a myriad of introspective detail. “There was a time when I realized that the central focal point of portraiture did not have to be representational in any way,” Condo has said. “You don’t need to paint the body to show the truth about a character. All you need is the head and the hands” (G. Condo, quoted in A. Bonney, “George Condo,” BOMB Magazine, Summer 1992).

Out of a colorful mosaic of organic forms, figures and their component parts begin to emerge. A voluptuous nude stands proudly, her face rendered in precise detail while her body dissolves into multiple overlapping planes. Next to her, in profile, is another female nude, the contours of her luscious lips, matched only by the curls of her blond hair. Standing between them is the figure of Rodrigo; recognizable by his large eyes, prominent teeth and sporting a natty bow-tie, he appears to be putting his arms around one of his female companions, although the hands that are clasped in front of her also appear to both be her own. Elsewhere, limbs, faces, buttocks, and more depictions of Rodrigo appear and disappear in a jigsaw of color and form.

“There was a time when I realized that the central focal point of portraiture did not have to be representational in any way…you don’t need to paint the body to show the truth about a character.” George Condo

Condo’s distinctive figures are constructed out of simple charcoal silhouettes—meandering lines that accentuate the curvaceous nature of the female form with the simplest of means. These strokes perform two roles—defining the figure’s presence yet at the same time firmly anchoring them in the background from which they are trying to emerge. In contrast to the simplicity of their bodies, the faces of the female figures in particular are depicted in exquisite detail with Condo lavishing particular attention on the eyes and hair. Other, mostly male, figures are rendered in the artist’s more iconic style—their distorted features rendered with his distinctive outlandish simplicity. These figures are then laid out in such a way that each figure almost overlaps with the next, standing so close that they almost merge into one.

Condo’s work is a raucous amalgamation of art historical styles and influences. He pulls successfully from the major themes of Expressionism, Surrealism, and Cubism, among others. “Any great artist is a sum total of the artists who came before him,” Condo has said. “Picasso’s ‘Seated Bather’ comes straight out of Renoir and there’s references to David and ‘Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe’ by Manet. It’s an identity thing—everybody wants to feel like an individual, but we’re all part of a continuum, whether we like it or not… When I’m playing Picasso or Matisse or Cézanne in my paintings, sometimes they’re together in the same song, but it’s a jam session” (G. Condo, quoted by H. Moss, “A New Show That puts George Condo New to Picasso, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, November 18, 2016, online:
via [accessed: 10/15/2010].

Paintings such as Linear Connection have done much to reinvigorate the noble tradition of figurative painting. A generation of contemporary painters such as John Currin, Glenn Brown and Lisa Yuskavage have all acknowledged a debt of gratitude to Condo, for appreciating the traditions of painting, while not being suffocated by them, and in turn developing a whole new set of rubrics. Condo uses his inimitable technique to reassess painting in a radical new way and by combining the past with a more contemporaneous narrative, paintings such as this have done much to reinvigorate figurative painting and return the human figure to its central position in the modern art historical canon.

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