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George Portrait
Portrait of George Condo © George Condo
15 Jan 2020

George Condo now represented by Hauser & Wirth

We are thrilled to announce worldwide representation of New York-based artist George Condo. Our first project with the artist will be an exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Zürich in June 2020, coinciding with Art Basel.

George Condo, born in Concord, New Hampshire in 1957, is a defining figure of contemporary American painting. Over the past four decades, he has forged a relentlessly inventive path, deploying technical skill and canonical art historical knowledge to channel the painterly modes of American and European art history into works of astonishing originality. Condo synthesizes past pictorial languages and motifs to create, as he has put it, ‘composites of various psychological states painted in different ways.’ Oftentimes, the influence of multiple historical moments can be felt in a single work. Most of Condo’s paintings are portraits, not of living individuals but of invented characters, captured in ways that reveal the humanity inherent in their fractured psychological states. Condo collapses hierarchies, between painting and drawing, the beautiful and the grotesque, and the comic and the tragic.

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George Condo, Double Heads on Blue and Silver, 2014 © George Condo

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George Condo, The Insane Cardinal, 2003 © George Condo

A breakthrough moment came in 1984 in Cologne at Monika Sprüth Gallery when he first showed his hybrid paintings or ‘fake Old Masters.’ To produce these, he applied the style of 17th-century paintings to contemporary subjects, as Simon Baker referred to in his book ‘Condo: Painting Reconfigured’: ‘Rembrandt paints Bugs Bunny.’ While other Postmodern artists were at that time using appropriation to create collage-style works marked by an intentional sense of disjuncture, Condo’s unique approach to the remix yielded a powerfully unified image. He subsequently coined the term ‘artificial realism’ – the realistic representation of that which is artificial – to describe his aesthetic.

‘George is immersed in the conundrums of the human condition, exquisitely sensitive to what he has called ‘the madness of everyday life’ and its effects on us all. This results in an art that is deeply empathetic even while pointing to the dystopian.’—Marc Payot

While Condo’s practice has undergone a series of shifts and steady evolution over the years, his life-long love of drawing and music remains constant. Drawing constitutes a rich strand of the artist’s creative practice in its own right. He uses the terms ‘rhythm’ and ‘tempo’ to describe the process of drawing and the freedom it brings. He has produced ‘jazz paintings’ depicting imaginary record covers for a number of musicians like John Coltrane and Miles Davis in the style of artists like Kandinsky and de Kooning, evolving into a technical breakthrough of the artist silk-screening his own abstractions; ‘orgy paintings’ inspired by Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, and Cezanne; portraits of ‘antipodal creatures’ depicting misshapen, big-eared, bug-eyed humanoids inspired by Aldous Huxley’s 1956 essay ‘Heaven and Hell’; a body of ‘commedia dell’arte’ works featuring recurrent fictitious characters like Rodrigo and Jean-Louis; ‘royal portraits’ of Queen Elizabeth II; and ‘drawing paintings’ which marry the abstract and the figurative in a teeming field of forms.

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George Condo, Downtown New York, 2012 © George Condo

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George Condo, Diaries of Milan, 1984 © George Condo

Alongside his paintings, which combine abstract and figurative forms, Condo has developed a rich vocabulary of sculpture since the 1980s when he began to meld found objects with materials like wood, plaster and paint to create three-dimensional bronze sculptures. In his 2019 commission for the Metropolitan Opera, Condo created Constellation of Voices, a 13.6 foot sculpture with a 24 carat gold leaf surface sitting on the terrace above the entrance to the Met overlooking Lincoln Plaza. A sculptural beacon of light uniting abstraction with classical iconography.

Bespeaking the rich complexity of his approach, curator Ralph Rugoff, who included the artist to critical acclaim in the 2019 Venice Biennale exhibition ‘May You Live in Interesting Times,’ has said, ‘George’s paintings have a life that’s very different from what you get in other artists. There’s real heat on the surface, and things are changing all the time.’

Marc Payot, Partner and President of Hauser & Wirth, commented, ‘We are profoundly honored to welcome George Condo to the gallery. He is a pioneer, a seeker, a technical master who has continually expanded the language of painting through his passionate and unconventional engagement with art history. George is immersed in the conundrums of the human condition, exquisitely sensitive to what he has called ‘the madness of everyday life’ and its effects on us all. This results in an art that is deeply empathetic even while pointing to the dystopian. He is, quite simply, one of our greatest contemporary painters. Given his professed love of so many of our artists across generations, we are particularly excited to explore the connections between his work and those of other iconic Americans in our program, including the titans Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston, and Jack Whitten. We’re enormously excited and humbled to be working with him.’

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Installation view, 'George Condo, Constellation of Voices. Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center, New York NY, 2019 © George Condo

George Condo remarked: ‘I look forward to starting this new decade with Hauser & Wirth. 2020 will be a chance to begin working with a gallery that has created an exceptional global platform for artists and viewers to discover, engage and study a range of multi-generational and cross-cultural artists. They have consistently mounted landmark exhibitions around the world opening the eyes of the viewer to the new and unfamiliar. It is of great interest to me that Hauser & Wirth takes a very comprehensive and academic approach to the artist’s legacy.’

Hauser & Wirth’s first project with George Condo will be an exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Zürich in June 2020, coinciding with Art Basel. Another forthcoming project is the group exhibition ‘Pablo Picasso & Les Femmes d’Alger’ at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Museum Berggruen, which opens in June 2020. Condo will maintain a relationship with Sprüth Magers, with whom he has worked since 1983. He lives and works in New York City.

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