‘Picasso painted a violin from four diferent perspectives at one moment. I do the same with psychological states. Four of them can occur simultaneously. Like glimpsing a bus with one passenger howling over a joke they’re hearing down the phone, someone else asleep, someone else crying – I’ll put them all in one face.’ (George Condo quoted in S. Jefries, ‘George Condo: “I was delirious. Nearly Died”, in The Guardian, 10 February 2014).
Pablo Picasso The Kiss II, 1970. Oil on canvas. Private Collection. © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2015. Image: Bridgeman Images
George Condo is one of the most celebrated contemporary portrait artists, creating a unique style of painting, which he himself defnes as ‘psychological cubism’ or ‘artifcial realism’. This style of painting involves a delicate brushstroke and highly saturated hues of colour, with a contemporary sense of three-dimensionality. His vast corpus of works draws inspiration from European Old Masters and modern artists, such as Pablo Picasso and George Braque, in terms of Cubist infuences, and Francis Bacon, whose tormented characters inspired Condo in the expression of one’s internal conficts. His portraits, however, are unique and innovative; the artist goes beyond the stereotypical sitting portrait and attempts to analyse the psychology of his subjects. Woman and the Man, 2008 is an exquisite example of the so-called ‘psychological cubism’, since it shows Condo’s skills in transforming an everyday human subject into disparate threatening psychological states. The current lot depicts a man and a woman kissing; this work is evocative of The Kiss II painted in 1970 by the father of Cubism, Pablo Picasso. Both paintings present the same theme, their composition is geometric and the subjects look sinister and deformed. In Woman and the Man, the subjects’ necks are unnaturally long; their faces do not have human characteristics, on the contrary they are rather animalistic. An eye is located in between the teeth, which in turn are dislocated from their mouths. The subjects have three eyes of diferent sizes, and each of them looks in a diferent direction, thus creating an overall feeling of rejection. This type of portrait is simultaneously attractive and grotesque, as Condo has explained: ‘I consider them to be feelings or the inside of that person’s private life being visible on the outside.’ (George Condo interviewed by Ralph Rugof, in George Condo: Existential Portraits, exh. cat., New York, Luhring Augustine, 2006, p. 10).
Phillips presents the 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 9 February in London.