Renowned American artist George Condo inaugurates the newly established West Hollywood gallery on 15 February 2023 with an exhibition of new paintings.
With the exhibition’s title ‘People Are Strange,’ taken from the hit 1967 song of the same name by legendary – and quintessentially Los Angeles – band The Doors, Condo’s latest canvases are filled with fragmented portraits and abstractions, suggesting a world of oppositional forces and states, at once connected and entropic, logical and ineffable, beautiful and ugly.
Filling the sweeping expanse of Hauser & Wirth’s new West Hollywood gallery, housed in a 1930s Spanish Colonial Revival building redolent of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the works on view present Condo’s latest explorations in scale and the painterly process. While seemingly disparate upon first glance, these new paintings are united by a central theme of transformation: they succeed in representing temporality both in the built-up, layered stages of their construction, and in the chimerical effects of the figures that inhabit them.
‘In these works I put together the broken pieces and fragmented aspects of that division to intentionally point out the question: is it that people are strange or is it the politicians that are in fact strange, thus resulting in a maelstrom of dehumanized and disenchanted people who as a result have become strange... even to themselves.’—George Condo
Inspired by the way literature can track the passage of time and its effects on the reader, Condo has created a trio of large-scale portraits of female muses, erudite and canonical. Each of these is dominated by a color that conveys mood with an iconographic intensity. For example, ‘Transitional Portrait in Turquoise and Gold’ (2022) depicts within its single frame, where the image is read from left to right, the collapsing of time in the passage of a life. The effect of the work is that of a time-lapse film. Condo observes, ‘The irony is, that as we age, we get younger in our minds and spirits, even though the external view of us is completely different than what’s in our heads. The tragic and the beautiful come together when perceived from the perspective of the viewer.’
Each work embodies its own logical chaos, at once disorderly and intact, which speaks to the fractured nature of our contemporary moment and indirectly references the ever-changing conflicts in the world. According to Condo, the artist is uniquely equipped to translate the ineffable effects of time, acknowledging that ‘the transformation of society and people is something we all feel but that a painter can actually show.’
A centerpiece of the exhibition is the large-scale triptych ‘Transformation’ (2022). The frenetic energy of the work is echoed in this vivid tableau, which features a frenzied picture of undulating forms punctuated by the interaction of figures coalescing and diverging on the surface of the canvas. Condo’s subject is the effects of increasing isolation that pulls individuals away from one another, fraying and fracturing community, and society. The amount of time required to create such a work – the ongoing process of laying down line and color, and of removing, adding, repeating the process – is more consuming than the final images might suggest. Time itself thus becomes a material and a central theme of the show.
Concurrent with the exhibition at Hauser & Wirth West Hollywood, the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City will present ‘Entrance to the Mind: Drawings by George Condo,’ featuring 28 works on paper that provide a unique overview of Condo’s drawing practice over the last 45 years. This March in Europe, an exhibition titled ‘Humanoids,’ curated by Didier Ottinger, will be held at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco – Villa Paloma.
Born in Concord, New Hampshire in 1957, George Condo lives and works in New York City. He studied Art History and Music Theory at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, where he became particularly inspired by a course on Baroque and Rococo painting. He moved to Boston and played in a punk band, ‘The Girls;’ relocated to New York, where he worked as a printer for Andy Warhol; and spent a year studying Old Master glazing techniques in Los Angeles. During his first trip to Europe in 1983, Condo connected with the anarchic Mülheimer Freiheit group in Cologne which included painters Jiri Georg Dokoupil and Walter Dahn.
George CondoPeople Are Strange
On view now through 22 April 2023 at Hauser & Wirth West Hollywood.