Unfolding across the entirety of both the gallery’s London spaces, this exhibition is dedicated exclusively to the works of George Condo, a defining figure of contemporary American painting. The exhibition brings together new drawings and paintings depicting states of mind captured in an abstract web that reveal the humanity inherent within fragmented psyches.
The portraits reflect a range of emotions simultaneously occurring within us, buried deep within our collective subconscious, revealing themselves through the figurative form. Condo has forged a relentlessly inventive path, deploying technical skill and canonical knowledge to channel the painterly modes of American and European art history into works of astonishing originality.
Often the presence of multiple historical moments can be felt in a single work. The new drawings and paintings on show are portraits, not of living individuals but of invented characters, represented in ways that combine various viewpoints to reflect different emotions erupting simultaneously.
Condo describes the figures, in works such as Shadows and Light (2021), as ‘interacting in the shadows’, likening them to the way that light shines through gaps between trees in the forest; this is reflected throughout the exhibition in works such as The Day I Stopped Drinking (2021) where an eye or a mouth can be seen peeping through the thicket of the composition. These characters are partially erased by the deconstructive process of painting.
Condo achieves this effect by first choosing challenging color combinations to draw initial figures and forms, followed by a process of erasure with new layers of paint, thus only allowing certain elements of the original forms to survive. As well as capturing the complex mind of a person, Condo’s portraits have taken on landscape painting qualities, where gestural paint strokes resemble things we might see in the natural world; works in the exhibition such as Escape from Humanity (2021) embody this as mental landscapes in and of themselves.
The process of making art is a way for Condo to resolve these tensions, a form of personal conflict resolution via painting and drawing. Paintings including A Day in the Park (2021) and The Day They All Got Out (2021) display this dialectical paradigm – his harsh lines and colors provide a structure that allows the figurative forms to roam free, as if the lockdown had unleashed a mad rush to escape from shelter. Ultimately, these works are portraits of Condo’s mind, and his intention is that others will see their own minds reflected as well.