“George Condo: Mental States” Opens
“George Condo: Mental States,” is the first major American retrospective of Condo’s work, comprised of more than 80 paintings and sculptures. The two-floor exhibit organized by the New Museum and Hayward Gallery takes the viewer on a journey through Condo’s style, from his classic yet grotesque portraiture to eerie sculptures, and finally, his vivid abstract pieces.
You may know George Condo for his five recently commissioned paintings for Kanye West’s latest album, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” One of the covers depicts a naked West lying on a bed straddled by a naked white female phoenix with demonic facial features, wings, no arms and a long, spotted tail. This sexually explicit painting caused quite a stir and eventually led to the alleged ban of the cover in major retailers.
Condo’s recent cross into popular media has brought a lot of attention to his work. Though his career is nothing new, many are surprised to find that it has spanned nearly three decades. After studying art history and music theory at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, Massachusetts, Condo moved to New York in 1980 and quickly became part of the booming East Village art scene, eventually establishing friendships with artists such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Each scene depicted in Condo’s work brings forth a certain familiarity, which is pushed to the extreme of the human psyche, reflecting on the madness of everyday life. From afar, it may just look like a bunch of thoughtless doodles, but Condo’s monochromatic abstract piece “Internal Constellation” takes the viewer on a trip into Condo’s brain. Each detail in the piece conveys varied emotion, from an ecstatic scene of joy to pure chaos and distressful confusion by using varied line strokes and composition. Suiting the show’s title, Condo’s work is the visual embodiment of our mental states. His inspirations range from Diego Velázquez to Looney Tunes, from Mannerist ornamentalism to Cubism. Condo’s portraiture canon is far from normal, yet still retains a classic style. His subjects are invented and animated to evoke various states.