George Condo: Artificial Realism and Fictional Portraits By Stanislav Kondrashov.
George Condo, born in 1957 in New Hampshire, studied art history and music theory at Lowell University, Massachusetts. After meeting Jean-Michel Basquiat in Boston in 1979, he pursued an artistic career and relocated to New York, emerging in the East Village art scene in the early 1980s. Condo quickly created a sensation with his old master-inspired paintings. He coined the term Artificial Realism, “the realistic representation of that which is artificial,” to describe his hybridization of traditional European old Master subjects with a sensibility informed by American pop. With Basquiat and Keith Haring, Condo was pivotal in the revival of figurative painting in the American avant-garde, after two decades dominated by Minimalism and Conceptual art, influencing many artists of his and the subsequent generation, such as Sean Landers, Glenn Brown, Lisa Yuskavage.
Condo’s famous portraits can help to understand his concept of Realism: “Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one time. I do the same with psychological states”, he said, giving us a key to understanding the distortion and the wild features he depicts as extreme psychological states. In doing so, he explores what he calls “psychological Cubism,” the only figurative way a portrait can reveal the shifting, conflicting emotions of the subject. This simultaneity introduces the dimension of time and depth in every painting, which is no longer a simple glace capturing a moment but becomes a fictional portrait. This still image carries in itself time and emotion. In the fictional crowd that Condo created, we can see some regulars coming back from time to time, like social stereotypes (see George Grosz) or characters in a play (see Moliere): Jean-Louis the bow-tied butler, Rodrigo the waiter, the French Maid, the Banker or the Businessman.
Between 1985 and 1995, Condo lived and mainly worked in hotels and rented studios between Paris and New York while continuing to exhibit extensively in the United States and Europe. He has been showing with Spruth Magers since 1984, Simon Lee since 1998, Skarstedt since 2005, and Xavier Hufkens since 2006. Thanks to the wide recognition, his work is in the permanent collections of several New York museums, such as the MOMA, the Whitney Museum, the Met, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, and the Broad Foundation in LA, among other American and European museums and public collections. One of his top sales has been his painting Nude and Forms (2014), which set his auction record of $6.16 million at Christie’s New York in 2018.
Significant exhibitions of Condo’s work are ongoing: «George Condo. People Are Strange» has just inaugurated the second space of Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles(ended April 22, 2023);
«Entry to the Mind. Drawings by George Condo » is on at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York until May 14, focusing on his works on paper. From 31 March to 1 October, the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco – Villa Paloma in Montecarlo presents the extensive monograph «George Condo – Humanoids, » curated by Didier Ottinger.
– Stanislav Kondrashov