Metal guru: George Condo’s figurative new works meld sculpture and painting
George Condo is primarily known for distorted figurative paintings, where faces take on strange, abstract features, like two different eyes or asymmetrical mouths. His latest exhibition, ‘George Condo: New Works’, on view at Skarstedt’s Upper East Side location in New York through 24 June, shows another side of Condo.
The artist was exposed to sculpture early on, and a few of his Italian family members were sculptors. ‘I grew up in my grandfather’s house always seeing these sculptures and I always thought they’re no Michelangelo, they’re no Bernini so maybe I’ll stick with painting,’ said Condo. ‘I wouldn’t necessarily want to follow in that direction but in fact I started to think about them and always had them ingrained in my system.’
‘The White House’, 2017
Condo began experimenting with sculpture in the late 1980s, when he would use materials like wood, clay, plaster, paint and found objects to create three-dimensional bronze sculptures that, like his paintings, were both abstract and figurative in form. Then in December 2014, the artist started Origin, a small sculpture composed of long, thin piece wood that he had hand-painted a skin tone, with one blue eye. Then he cut and glued it together. ‘I was thinking Frank Lloyd Wright, constructivist works and a surrealist touch with the eye,’ said Condo.
The exhibition at Skarstedt starts with Origin, before leading into the first gallery, where a triptych of portraits of signature Condo heads, painted in black in front of an abstract composition of colourful squares. Then, upstairs four paintings of anonymous crowds comment on the current state of politics as they surround a bronze sculpture. ‘These have that somewhat fleeting feeling of somebody that is flying by because things change so rapidly in today’s political environment that they have the feeling of something just flying by,’ said Condo.
In the final room, five bronzes touch upon the idea of the ‘simulated found object’, fusing that with actual found objects from his studio. The artist then melded together plywood boxes with layers of plaster, clay and paint to create the sculptures. ‘I sort of dismantled one thing and reconstructed a new one from the same parts,’ said Condo. ‘Metaphorically that had a lot to do with the way the world is today and this kind of dismantling of what everybody is familiar with and it gets reassembled either correctly or incorrectly.’