George Condo has occupied a central position in the landscape of American painting for nearly forty years. His unique and imaginative visual language pays tribute to a vast array of art-historical traditions and genres, drawing together elements of Old Master portraiture with allusions to contemporary American culture. Populated by a cast of characters whose bulging eyes, bulbous cheeks, proliferating limbs and hideous over- or under-bites mark them apart as a singular species, Condo’s art is profoundly original. The astonishing range of sources which his pictorial vocabulary draws upon is often noted, and yet this continuity across his hugely diverse painting practice bears witness to his achievement in absorbing the revolutionary genius of Picasso, Velazquez, Matisse, Arcimboldo, Pollock, Twombly and countless others and making them new; characteristically his own.
Priests, Cardinals, clowns and waiters, grotesque nudes, debutantes and eager society girls wearing pearl necklaces, whether alone or assembled into orgiastic groups, all stare confrontationally from his pictures. Condo has described his portraits as composites of various psychological states painted in different ways, reflecting the madness of everyday life; he calls this, ‘Artificial Realism’, defined as ‘the realistic representation of that which is artificial’. Condo’s paintings often fuse cartoon figures and human forms into a state of metamorphosis, each simultaneously reflecting a plethora of emotions and gestures; a scream and a laugh within a single expression. Sculptures too, and drawings continue this investigation of the macabre, the carnivalesque and the abject, as well as apparently abstract painting compositions from which the familiar physiognomies of Condo’s players emerge and retreat. Throughout his career, the artist has remained loyal to his personal aesthetic, crafting a uniquely inventive, multifarious and skilfully executed oeuvre that never fails to shock and delight.