Friday evening I went to a members only, post-opening party celebrating George Condo: Mental States at the New Museum. A line at the entrance extended the width of the museum and inside the cue for the coat check was even longer.
I scanned the crowd for familiar faces and recognized an artist who occupied my current studio space previously but others were new or only somewhat familiar. I went to the 4th floor following my own tradition at the NuMu, starting at the upper most level and working my way down. The paintings, like the guests were varied not only in dimension, but also in paint application and figure distortion.
Condo utilizes the historic tradition of oil painting and then warps his figuration in a way that almost resembles looking into a circus funhouse mirror. The work on the fourth floor, shown in the top image above, hangs salon style. Some of the paintings contained elements of a reconfigured antiquity, ranging from Titian to Picasso. He taps into memory to make work and as we all know memory is not necessarily “true”. After I spent time in Ghana, I experimented with memory based portraiture and found that I relied heavily on my knowledge of the physicality of the human form. Certain elements repeat themselves and this is true with Condo’s work as well.
In the realm of contemporary portraiture, I couldn’t help but think of John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage and even Dana Schutz. The paintings are glossy and while they carve a niche in direct communication with today, you can’t help but feel that we as viewers are part of a larger inside joke. Yet in the disintigration of a particular tradition another practice is born. The resulting dialogue uses a vocabulary that has existed for centuries, and in its newly arranged state communicates in 2011 nothing that hasn’t been conveyed before but attempts as a visual essay, to remind us that painting isn’t always what you expect it to be.
George Condo: Mental States is on view @ the New Museum until May 8th, 2011.
— Posted from my iPhone