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George Condo's 'psychological cubism'

Following the success of the LookingforU series on Instagram, Unit London are proud to present U-Greats, our celebration of modern masters of visual art from across the world, who have preceded and inspired the next generation of emerging creative talent.

 U-Greats will cast a weekly spotlight on iconic creators who, over time, have informed and inspired both our own represented artists and the wider team here at Unit London.

This week we present to you American contemporary artist George Condo.

 Condo’s works are populated by a cast of contorted misshapen characters that bear only partial semblance to the human form. Self-declared as ‘psychological cubism’, George Condo’s style is instantly recognisable - his imaginary subjects have obscenely bulbous facial features, skewed limbs and protruding eyes yet possess an essence which is undeniably human. His figures hint at our own imperfections and act as a hideous yet humorous investigation into the disjointed human psyche - frequently distilling an array of emotional states into a singular face. Many of his most impactful works include the faces of everyday life, Condo states, ‘When you see a crowd of people coming out of a subway and one crabby old lady is elbowing some guy to get out of her way and some strange bickering starts to take place, those kinds of expressions are far more interesting to me.’

George Condo, The Cloudmaker,  1984 

Condo describes his painting style as Artificial Realism - ‘the realistic representation of that which is artificial’ when describing what can be viewed as the hybridization of the techniques of traditional European Old Master painting with a sensibility and subject matter more akin to American Pop.

 During his time as a member of the band The Girls during the late 1970s, Condo was introduced to Jean-Michel Basquiat who radically allured him to a career in art. Condo fitted into the New York art scene well, working in collaboration with William Burroughs, and befriending both Keith Haring and Allen Ginsberg.

"My painting is all about this interchangeability of languages in art, where one second you might feel the background has the shading and tonalities you would see in a Rembrandt portrait, but the subject is completely different and painted like some low-culture, transgressive mutation of a comic strip"

George Condo, Nun and Priest, 2007

 After a stint working at Warhol’s Factory in the 1980s, Condo’s work found more acceptance and critical acclaim in Paris where he created artwork for over a decade. ‘My painting is all about this interchangeability of languages in art, where one second you might feel the background has the shading and tonalities you would see in a Rembrandt portrait, but the subject is completely different and painted like some low-culture, transgressive mutation of a comic strip’, he stated, arguing that ‘I think it was too far over people’s heads to get it. It just didn’t make sense’. In 2010, Condo produced the iconic artwork for Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – presenting a risqué loosely painted beer-clasping West being mounted by an armless nymph - a collaboration with clear links to Condo’s unwavering interest in music and popular culture.  

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