George Condo is active/lives in New York, California, New Hampshire. George Condo is known for post-surreal, grotesque figure and portrait painting.
Biography from the Archives of askART
In the 1980's, George Condo, born in Concord, New Hampshire, arrived in
New York, after having been in California, and became close friends
with members of Andy Warhol's Factory including Julian Schnabel,
Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. He collaborated with the
heroes of the Beat Generation, William S. Burroughs and Allen
Ginsberg. Of this time, it was written: "His work was governed by
the reworking of the Old Masters, in a lyric universe in which the
human being is decomposed in a multiplicity of non-human beings merged
from his own unconsciousness: 'I conceive artistic language as my own
natural reactions, a combination of rational and irrational.' "
Biography from the Archives of askART
He worked together successfully with Burroughs,
which included a visit to Burroughs in Lawrence, Kansas. Condo
said: "We both disintegrated in each other's presence and became
being." However, each retained their individuality as well with Condo
contributing a cartoon aspect to their conceptual sculpture of layered
Though his work, qualified as a "figurative
abstraction", it is quite impossible to determinate a frontier between
representation and abstraction, between academic art and avant-garde,
between popular imagery and High Art. His female figures are
described as ferocious and highly aggressive types and are intended to
dispel any sense of submissiveness or timidity.
Condo, who remains known primarily for his cartoon-like portraits has also turned to
sculpture with works that include jazz themes---monumental stainless steel
letters spelling out the names of music legends like Miles Davis and
Charlie Parker. His sculptural works also include abstract bronzes and
32 busts of invented deities, a group of works inspired by the 9-11
Condo was raised in a family where the father was a math and physics
professor. For two years, he attended the University of
Massachusetts at Lowell, where his father taught, and taking art
history classes, became very enamored with Caravaggio and other Old
Masters. He later did paintings that he called fake Old Masters,
which had elements of abstraction and unique treatment that got the
attention of younger artists. While in college, he also played
bass guitar with a punk rock group called the Girls, and
landed in New York City because of a music "gig".
he moved to Los Angeles, and became friends with Roger Herman, a local
artist. Herman's influence led to gallery representation and some
sales, but by the mid 1980s, Condo was back in New York, the place he
perceived as the center of action, and was offered
gallery shows. From that time, his career has been a success
underscored by special recognition such as receiving in 1999 the
Academy Award in
Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the release in 2000
of a feature
film titled Condo Paintings, directed by John McNaughton; and a visiting lectureship at Harvard University.
also has stirred big-time controversy such as in England in 2006, when
he entered a portrait painting of Queen Elizabeth in his
attention-getting 'laugh-out-loud' style at the Tate Modern in
London. He titled the work, Cabbage Patch Queen, "after
the cutely homely kids' doll", and "the reaction was nuclear. . .
. Royal Academy members were furious". From that event, he had a
lot of fall out, but is still convinced that "Noble subjects can be
painted in a jocular manner with no loss of dignity to the sitter."
Condo has work is in permanent collections of
major museums worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art, New York;
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American
Art, New York; The Ludwig Museum, Cologne; etc.
He is married to
Italian actress, Anna Condo, and they have two children. Although
he is not fond of travel, they did live in Cologne from 1983 to 1984,
and Paris from 1984 to 1985. The family lives on the upper East
Side of New York City, which he likes because "there are no other
artists around." (Plagens, 183)
Art Forum, November 1994
Art & Auction, September 2003
Peter Plagens, "Fake Tiepolos and the Cabbage Patch Queen", ARTnews, Summer 2007, p. 183
The following review is from The Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2011:
Biography from RoGallery.com
"George Condo Visits the Old Masters" By ELLEN GAMERMAN
A Renaissance lord crossed with a gorilla. A portrait of a lady with a
tiny head. A Romantic poet with a clown nose. This week, New York's New
Museum launched a major exhibit of works by George Condo, a
contemporary artist best known for adapting the style of the Old
Masters to his own portraits, creating a unique cast of grotesque
On Wednesday afternoon, the day the exhibit opened, the 53-year-old
artist visited one of his major sources of inspiration, the Frick
Collection, a New York museum showcasing works from the Renaissance
through the late 19th century. The Frick is close to Mr. Condo's Upper
East Side home and studio, and he comes here often. Since he paints
entirely from his imagination, rather than from photographs or models,
he looks for technical guidance from the works by the long-dead masters
on the gallery's walls. If he needs to paint a ribbon, for instance,
he'll study a bow on a damsel's dress by the French Rococo painter
Mr. Condo's paintings, many of which sell for around $450,000, aim to
play a trick on his audience: The artist bets that his characters will
seem real despite their giant jug ears or mismatched gargoyle eyes
because they've been created using techniques similar to those of
classical painters whose works have long been accepted as believable.
Walking around the Frick in his paint-splattered shoes, he stopped at a
1631 oil painting by Rembrandt, "Nicolaes Ruts" (pictured right). Mr.
Condo, who brought along his New Museum catalog, pointed to the cover
image, pictured at far right: a clown with demented woodchuck teeth
staring out of the frame and positioned in a similar pose. He's looking
for "a feeling of classicism," he said.
Another bit of shared DNA between the works: In Rembrandt's merchant
and Mr. Condo's clown, the same sides of the face are bathed in shadow
and set against a lighter background; the other sides of each face are
light and placed beside a darker background. Looking from the Rembrandt
to his own strange work, Mr. Condo let out a guffaw: "I get a kick out
of art," he said.
At this week's party for the exhibit, "George Condo: Mental States,"
the artist mingled with his recent collaborator, the hip-hop artist
Kanye West. Mr. Condo created cover art for Mr. West's new album, "My
Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," painting several options, including
surreal portraits of Mr. West, who rapped as he posed. The musician
initially chose Mr. Condo's image of a white winged creature straddling
a naked black figure for the cover art, but the album now sells in
stores with Mr. Condo's painting of a ballerina.
Inside the Frick, Mr. Condo seemed far removed from rappers and art
openings. He approached "The Progress of Love: Love Letters," by
Fragonard, and studied a young woman's dress, which looked white even
though it was created with gray and blue, with shadows in the folds of
the skirt painted in yellow rather than a dark color. He pointed to his
own 2004 painting, "The Cracked Cardinal," and described a similar use
of color and shading.
Later, he noted the burnt sienna and blue-green that Fragonard used in
another large work. Putting his face inches from the canvas, Mr. Condo
admired the color combination: "That's something to think about for the
next painting," he said. "It just looks so pretty."
George Condo is as well known for his painterly portraits as he is for
the bizarre cast of archetypal characters that inhabit them. His
subjects are classically posed, dramatically lit, and surrounded by
conflated fragments from the history of painting, such as bubbles,
glass bottles, drapery, vegetables lifted from the still-life table,
and vague empty settings to better project the subject of the picture.
In the end, however, the entire world and inner life of his subjects
derive completely from his imagination.
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