Long Museum West Bund
From 26 September to 28 November 2021, Long Museum (West Bund) presents the largest solo exhibition by George Condo in Asia, ‘The Picture Gallery.’ This ambitious presentation brings together more than 200 paintings, sculptures and drawings made throughout the artist’s career. Curated by Massimiliano Gioni and designed in collaboration with world-renowned architect Annabelle Selldorf, the exhibition focuses on some of the most important cycles and bodies of works that have defined Condo’s art since the late 1970s, when the artist was among the first to herald a critical return to painting after decades of conceptual art practices.
‘The Picture Gallery’ opens with a new cycle of paintings specifically realized for the Long Museum, which combine free gestural interventions with drawn figurative notations. Grouped under the title ‘Blues Paintings,’ this new body of work plays with musical references ranging from blues music to free jazz, while also composing an elegiac atmosphere. Condo refers to these works as a ‘lamentation for the return to the so-called new normal’ in the wake of the months of lockdown that followed the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Blues Paintings’ stand in stark contrast with a selection of important early works, throughout which Condo depicts imaginary creatures, cartoon characters, and his legendary ‘antipodular beings’ with the fastidiousness of an old master. Condo’s ability to bend traditional techniques to unexpected ends is also in full display in a massive salon-style installation featuring more than 30 portraits made over the last four decades. Combining an acute psychological insight with a maddening physiognomic imagination, Condo’s portraits seemingly compose a cast for a new theater of the absurd, mysteriously conflating comedy and tragedy.
In the cycle titled ‘The American Wing,’ paintings and largescale silkscreens portray American junk food, B movie actors, and television personalities, often overpainted with Condo’s cursive characters. Articulating Condo’s caustic take on American culture, ‘The American Wing’ likewise reflects on the role of museums in the construction of myths of national identity and culture.
Condo further extended his exploration of the human psyche into physical space in his sculptures. Cast in a variety of precious metals such as bronze and gold, the works immediately evoke multiple traditional sculptural techniques. But in Condo’s anarchic approach to figuration, art history and chronology can be reconfigured at will, according to a cut-up method that dissolves hierarchies and conventional narratives. This tension between futurism and archaism returns in ‘Black Paintings,’ a rarely exhibited group of works from 2019 in which Condo depicts cyborgs and robots torn by existential doubts, ostensibly pushed to the edge of survival.
Condo’s systematic confrontation with art history – both as a medium and a subject of his work – continues in a series of ‘Neo-Renaissance’ paintings and portraits of fictional aristocratic characters. In these paintings, Condo, once again, blends technical bravura with an irreverent approach to tradition.
A cycle of recent oil stick paintings reveals the ways in which the artist has assimilated the tragic events of 2020. In works such as ‘Father and Daughter with Face Mask’ and ‘Up Against the Wall,’ Condo reflects on isolation, proximity, and distance as the defining forces that have shaped life in the past year and a half.
Alongside the debut of ‘Blues Paintings,’ ‘The Picture Gallery’ also premieres a new group of ‘Toy Heads,’ a cycle of paintings in which Condo continues his investigation around the construction of subjectivity and the endless possibilities of reinvention of the self.
The exhibition is completed by a cabinet of drawings, presenting more than 70 drawings, starting from sketches realized when the artist was just a teenager up to a series of careful studies for his paintings and recent largescale works. Together, these drawings, made over forty years, offer an unexpected insight into Condo’s ebullient creative process.
About the Artist
Born in New Hampshire in 1957, Condo moved to New York in 1979. He quickly became a central figure in the East Village art scene at the moment when the collision of New Wave music, graffiti art, and appropriation tactics began to redefine the entire creative geography of New York City for years to come.
By the early 1980s, Condo’s specific approach to painting combined influences from Cubism, Surrealism, and other 20th-century avant-garde movements with cartoon characters and vernacular imagery, inaugurating a new kind of figuration which the artist defined as ‘artificial realism.’
For more than four decades, Condo’s stunning virtuosity and ability to devour and ventriloquize any historical painting style has resulted in a prodigious output. In his vast oeuvre, ‘fake old masters paintings,’ as the artist describes them, coexist with his maddening explorations of the human psyche, while figuration and abstraction are woven into tapestries of signs and symbols that find inspiration in the work of experimental writers and musicians.
George Condo has exhibited worldwide in various solo and group exhibitions, his works have also been honored with inclusion in Biennials in the United States and abroad. In 2019 he participated in the 58th Venice Biennale’s ‘May You Live In Interesting Times.’ His work was also exhibited in the Venice Biennale six years prior, in 2013. Other biennials in which Condo has participated include the 13th Biennale de Lyon in 2015, the 10th Gwangju Biennale in 2014, the 2010 and 1987 iterations of the Whitney Biennial, and the 48th Corcoran Biennial in Washington DC in 2005.
Condo’s work can be found in renowned public collections internationally, including: Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada; Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Dakis Joannou/Deste Foundation, Athens, Greece; Museu d’Art Contemporani, Barcelona, Spain; Staedel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany; Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; The Broad Collection, Los Angeles CA; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York NY; The Museum of Modern Art, New York NY; The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York NY; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York NY.
About the Curator
Massimiliano Gioni is the Edlis Neeson Artistic Director of the New Museum and the director of the Trussardi Foundation in Milan. He has curated numerous international exhibitions and biennials including the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), the 8th Gwangju Biennale (2010), the first New Museum Triennial (co-curated with Lauren Cornell and Laura Hoptman in 2009), the 4th Berlin Biennale (co-curated with Maurizio Cattelan and Ali Subotnick in 2006) and Manifesta 5 (co-curated with Marta Kuzma in 2004).
In recent years he has curated solo exhibitions at the New Museum by John Akomfrah, Ed Atkins, Lynda Benglis, Nicole Eisenman, Sarah Lucas, Marta Minujin, Chris Ofili, Carol Rama, Pipilotti Rist, Anri Sala, Peter Saul, and Nari Ward, among others. In 2021, Gioni has served as part of the curatorial advisory group—composed of Naomi Beckwith, Glenn Ligon and Mark Nash—which supervised the posthumous realization of Okwui Enwezor’s exhibition ‘Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America,’ which had been originally conceived by Enwezor for the New Museum. In 2019 Gioni curated ‘The Warmth of Other Suns. Stories of Global Displacement,’ a collaboration between the New Museum and the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, and at Museo Jumex in Mexico City he curated ‘Appearance Stripped Bare: Desire and the Object in the Work of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons, Even,’ the first exhibition to bring in dialogue the works of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons—with nearly 500,000 viewers, the exhibition was the most visited in the museum's history.
In June 2021, he organized ‘The Greek Gift,’ a small collective exhibition for the Dakis Joannou/Deste Foundation’s Slaughterhouse in Hydra, Greece. He is currently at work on Jeff Koons’s major solo exhibition ‘Lost in America’ which will open in Doha, Qatar, in November 2021.