Currently on at Hauser & Wirth, artist George Condo has opened a show of new works created this past year. Composed during the early months of quarantine, the works by the artist reflect the unsettling experience of physical distance and the absence of human contact during a prolonged social isolation. Comprising a new incorporation of abstraction into his already complex figurative project, the works on view here are a fascinating reinvention of the artist’s work.
Like so many working through the pandemic, the new restrictions on movement and social interaction pushed the artist to embrace new modes and practices. Condo pushed his portraiture practice to a new level, with invented characters captured in an abstract web that reveals the humanity inherent in their fractured psychological states. The subjects depicted are devoid of connection to one another in a state where, according to the artist, suspended in a flow of time almost completely cut off from its traditional experience. Perhaps this echoes the experience of making the works themselves, the daily “sameness” of the pandemic and the almost unbroken possibilities for more work. As Condo notes in a statement: “The pandemic has forced us into that strange, unidentified region of the mind where it seems to function on its own without any guidance. Now our rules and daily lives have been re-ordered as well – face masks, endless sanitization, gloves, and germ warfare. Without structures and data, the humanitarian effort to bring the human essence back into the picture and empathetically solve the virus and our own inner turmoil has turned into a much bigger picture over these last so many months.”
Yet the works equally take on a sense of rage and anger expressed during the summer’s protests over the police killings of unarmed black men across the United States. Condo, taking this rage, turned it towards his own works, burning his stylistic leanings and subject matter from the inside out, and turning its stylistic moorings on their head. Embracing an increasingly decayed rendering of his painterly figures, Condo’s works here twist the pieces into a new iteration of his familiar style, images breaking into fragments and occasionally giving way to spaces of empty canvas, with hand-drawn lines that emphasize the torrent of feeling and movement that dictated these paintings’ final form.
The show closes January 23rd.
– D. Creahan
George Condo: Internal Riot [Exhibition Site]