Photo Essays

First Look: George Condo Unveiled at New Museum

by Kyle Chayka on January 25, 2011

At a preview of the New Museum’s George Condo retrospective, George Condo: Mental States, I was struck by the painter’s relentless engagement with all sorts of art historical genres, from Baroque portraiture to abstract expressionism and back again, all cast into Condo’s weird world of bug-eyed monsters, fractured faces and elongated features. At turns cartoony and grotesque, weird and sublime, Condo’s exhibition represents a triumphant return for a painter now better known for his portraiture of Kanye West than for his 1980s art world-piercing works.

Here’s a photo essay covering the entire Condo exhibition, from the salon style portrait start to the abstract expressionist finish. All photos were taken by the author.

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Based on the theme of Portraiture, the initial gallery in Condo’s New Museum retrospective is hung salon style and ranges through a variety of styles and genres.

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At center, George Condo’s “Memories of Rembrandt” (1994). At right, “The Italian Girl” (2002).

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At Left, “The Executioner” (1984). At right, “Portrait of a Woman” (2002).

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A look up at George Condo’s wall of portraits. At top center, “The Portable Artist” (1995).

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One surprise at the New Museum’s Condo retrospective is the presence of the artist’s sculptures. These bronze busts, in the same gallery as the wall of portraits, make me appreciate the artist’s feeling for volume and form, an updated sculptural impressionism.

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Here’s a detail of one of the gilded bronze portrait busts. This one is “The Senate Council” (2002).

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In the New Museum’s stairwell nook gallery is “The Madman” (2005). It’s a particularly dramatic singular installation.

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The Pathos section of Condo’s exhibition shows sympathetic portraits of characters struggling through life. At center, here’s “The Executive” (2003).

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Moving on to the Mania theme, at left is “Screaming Priest” (2004). At right is “Couple on a Blue Striped Chair” (2005)

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A detail shot of “Screaming Priest” (2004) shows Condo’s brushwork.

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The New Museum’s third floor gallery is filled Condo’s abstract canvases. These three remind me of De Kooning in particular, with their twisted female forms in the foreground.

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At left is Condo’s large “Internal Constellation” (2001). Close up, the abstract lines coalesce into groups of Condo’s signature cartoony figures and faces.

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At center, “Big Red Jam” (1992). The spare red canvas recalls the attenuated surrealist abstraction of Matta and Arshile Gorky.

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George Condo: Mental States runs at the New Museum (235 Bowery) through May 8.

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  • http://twitter.com/TruffleHunting Mario M. Muller

    Nice “Photo essay.” It gives us on the west coast, who are curious, at least a little taste. Thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/chaykak Kyle Chayka

      Glad you could check it out and fine it useful! I hope it gets you in on the action a little bit.

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  • http://brianpaints.us Brianmoz

    I thought the show was wonderful but it did feel like a lot of one liners, which is why the wall of portraits was so affective. His later “abstracty” paintings were displayed more traditionally and had less impact . Seeing all his work together was a bit troubling though. Its like he was ass jumping around painting genres who couldn’t shake himself or his aesthetic no matter how hard he tried or didn’t try.

  • Av8r

    I like some of his work although I’m not quite sure what Condo is trying to say.

  • fideles

    I can’t begin to understand the high praise and grandiose claims made about this work. It is incredibly incompetent and the allusions to Old Master technique are moronic. Anyone who cannot see the clumsiness of the paint handling and crudity of the drawing hasn’t looked enough at great work. Finally, the comparisons to deKooning and Rothko and the like are as shallow as the work itself. I can only think that all this overreaching is some kind of desperation for really, truly significant painting in our time with a tangible connection to tradition. THIS ain’t it.

  • http://www.isitweirdthatilikeart.blogspot.com Eric Russ

    The New Museum did a great job in celebrating the revival of figurative painting brought to us by artists like John Currin and the incredible George Condo with their homage to European salon-style exhibition. It is very in keeping with the work that Condo is doing in regards to portraiture in which he is studying the canon and fusing it with his surrealist and cartoon-like vision. This is, in my opinion, the most successful show the New Museum has done in a long time.

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