Mental States

What does the Queen have in common with Kanye West? Bling, of course, but also George Condo.

Dreams and Nightmares of the Queen, 2006

Source: © George Condo. Image courtesy the lender

Dreams and Nightmares of the Queen, 2006

The artist is perhaps most famous for his caricature-like images of Her Majesty, which are typical of his often grotesque, bug-eyed works.  Last year, Kanye West, taken by Condo’s knack to cause controversy, approached him to create the artwork for his single Power and album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The result was suitable offensive, featuring an image depicting graphic bestiality – which was banned by many American retailers.

From tomorrow, London’s Hayward Gallery will be exhibiting Mental States, a retrospective of that artist’s work, which has taken in Condo’s native New York and Rotterdam, before making its way over here.

The show will feature over 80 works, including sculptures and drawings spanning the past twenty-eight years of the artist’s career, with nine of the Queen portraits on show and nine sculptural heads including the 2002 work The Alcoholic.

The Alcoholic, 2002

Source: © George Condo. Image courtesy Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Zurich

The Alcoholic, 2002

New Hampshire-born Condo emerged in New York’s East Village in the early 1980s alongside contemporaries Keith Haring and Basquiat, creating ‘fake Old Master’ canvasses. He continued his studies of the masters with a trip to Paris, spending his time copying Raphael works in the Louvre.

Couple on Blue Striped Chair, 2005

Source: Private Collection, Courtesy Simon Lee Gallery © George Condo. Image courtesy Luhring Augustine

Couple on Blue Striped Chair, 2005

While his peculiar style of portraiture may not bear much resemblance to the masters, he has certainly carved his niche as a highly distinctive, original artist. His work throughout the 1990s was characterised pinhead style images, which the aetist dubbed ‘antipodes’, that aim to symbolize the states of human consciousness that evade description.

The Butler, 2000

Source: © George Condo. Image courtesy the artist

The Butler, 2000

Rather than forming accurate representations of their subjects, Condo intends them to reflect often main states of emotion. His decision to depict Jesus as one of these pinheaded caricatures in 2002 predictably ensured a fair amoumt of controversy.

Jesus, 2002

Source: © George Condo. Image courtesy Luhring Augustine

Jesus, 2002

Mental States will be organised thematically, with curator Ralph Rugoff working closely with the artist to organise the works into ‘chapters.’

Rugoff says, ‘I am delighted to be presenting the first major exhibition of Condo’s work in the UK. Long considered an artist’s artist, Condo’s work has been a major influence on a younger generation of painters, who have felt the impact of the artist’s astonishing technical ability, stylistic versatility and inventive subject matter.’

George Condo: Mental States runs from 18 October 2011 – 8 January 2012 at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1

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