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JAMES CONDOS untitled 2.0

untitled 2.0

James Condos Outside/In

summer | 2017

untitled 2.0 a gallery on the corner of 6th & "g" street 119 se sixth street, grants pass, or 97526 dewayne thomas lumpkin 541.761.9978 | copyright © 2017 untitled 2.0 all rights reserved no portion of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission of the publisher this catalogue is published in conjunction with an exhibition of james condos' artwork {untitled 2.0, august 4 - 29, 2017}. all works are colored pencil collage on paper special thanks to: duane megyesi for collaboration on "outside/in" and photographing artwork lee webb for writing the foreword and photographing artwork lynn marie kirby for "we have the word tangerine, but we don't have a word that describes the smell of a newborn baby's head." jim & debbie mcshane @ in his time custom picture framing & gallery - 139 sw "g" street, grants pass, oregon 97526 - 541.471.1541 for their great care framing james condos' art in conjunction with a generous grant from josephine county cultural coalition and the cultural trust for the "outsider art project.”

printed by pixartprinting usa incorporated 275 wyman street waltham ma 02451 855.932.7498 | nd information about "i wish i was that bird" a documentary lm by jeff krolick featuring james condos' life and artwork @ cover concept and catalogue design by audrey isbell - ava virtual assistance 1867 williams hwy - suite #207 grants pass, or 97527 541.244.2606 |


Foreword by Lee Webb I rst became acquainted with James Condos in 2000 when I scanned slides of his early acrylic and oil paintings taken by Jeff Krolick. Later James shifted to creating elaborate color collages from multiple individual drawings. By 2006 I began photographing his collages and we began driving together several times a year to the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics. I never know what will spring from James' mind. Riverboat Frogs, The Captain and His Bay Rats, Sugar Beets, Thresher of Thrashers, and The Bat Plant. His art pieces and titles are whimsical, entertaining and mysterious. I've attended local exhibits of James’ art through the years at Rogue Community College Art Galleries, Art in the Garden, and First Friday Art Nights. I Wish I Was That Bird, a documentary lm, told the candid story of James and his art. Jeff Krolick and James Condos collaborated on the lm. The documentary received an award at at the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival in 2016. James & Jeff traveled to Glasgow for the premiere. Jeff, in an article about the lm in the Grants Pass Daily Courier, stated “I think the real success is that, here’s an individual who has had many challenges in his life including trying to make a life that’s rewarding and satisfying and meaningful for himself…. he’s [been] able to make this the career he’s always dreamed of.” James Condos' discusses the origins of his art: "I was born in Pattersen, New Jersey in 1960 and raised in California. By 1965, at age ve, I began my lifelong fascination with art. I rst tried painting with acrylics and water colors but I’m best at drawing. For eight or nine years I drew subjects from my imagination with a little help from pictures in newspapers, magazines, or books. When I create an art piece, I don't draw it all on one sheet of poster board. Each work contains many separate enlarged drawings of characters or objects I developed from small images in books or magazines. My art work also contains many things I visualize from my past. My works are mixed media collages with colored pencils and ink."


















Outside/In Labels get tossed around in contemporary art criticism like a deck of 52 cards in the nimble hands of a blackjack dealer. Surrealism, Romanticism, Op Art, Pop Art, Post Impressionism, Primitivism, Neo-Expressionism, Post Painterly Abstraction and - seemingly most appropriate to James Condos and his colored pencil collages - Outsider Art. Describing his work as part of the Outsider Art tradition does not elicit a positive response from Condos. Yes, he and his art were the subject of an award winning documentary that took him to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016. And yes, later that same year there was an exhaustive exhibit of his early work to correspond with a screening of the film in his hometown - Grants Pass, Oregon. And yes, he has exhibits scheduled at Untitled 2.0 and the Grants Pass Museum of Art in the next two years. Still, Condos stands on the outside wanting in. Mile markers of success for an artist approaching his late 50's can be emotionally negated when the term outsider gets attached as a knee-jerk response to his lack of formal art education and his lifelong struggle to survive on the outskirts of society. Condos is well acquainted with being an outsider. His life story is about the battle to get inside. Inside a home; inside a steady job; inside a circle of friends; inside a support system for mental health and inside the seemingly impenetrable fortress of the art establishment. After decades of perseverance and dedication to his art, being labeled an outsider artist perplexes Condos. He innately understands that once a label is attached he risks marginalization. Condos worries viewers won't study the intricacies of his compositions or the dichotomies in his subject matter or his cross-genre influences. Standardization and categorization are the norm at critical crossroads when rigorous questioning is the more appropriate response. According to Tate's online glossary of art terms: Outsider Art describes art that has a naive quality, often produced by people who have not trained as artists or worked within the conventional structures of art production. Special emphasis is placed on the latter half of this definition (not trained as artists...within conventional structures) since many highly trained contemporary artists produce work that personifies naivete on its surface. Study the works of Squeak Carnwath, Yoshitomo Nara, Raymond Saunders and Jules de Balincourt among a growing list of contemporary practitioners of the faux naif style (another French term loosely translated as artfully simple). These artists are classically trained at some of the most prestigious universities and art schools, yet they embrace a primitive painting style. They aren't described as 41

Outsider Artists and their work isn't labeled Outsider Art. In fact - given their status, faculty positions, exhibition histories and curriculum vitae - they could justifiably be considered art world insiders. Labeling artists contemporaneously presents a conundrum when one of the unintended consequences is placing the individual and his art on the periphery. It's a brain twister of a puzzle with complex pieces representing ends, motivations, justification, methodology and means. Admittedly, the term Outsider has much more to do with lines on a resume (or the lack thereof) than with the actual work that is produced. James Condos and his work are undeniably within the tradition of Outsider Art. Yet, for an individual whose life has been defined by labels since early childhood, Condos is aware of the double-edged nature of such distinctions. His lack of classical training forces him to rely on a different set of skills to produce benign and colorful works that are playfully elegant and sophisticated escapes from his malignant personal history. There is a depth of concept and emotive energy present in his art that compensates for his lack of formal education and begs for a more nuanced (or sensitive) classification than Outsider Art. Is there a preferable descriptive term that distinguishes between the trained and untrained in a subculture that pushes back against whispers of elitism, privilege and exclusivity? Should there be? The flip side of this proposition asks us to consider the concept of Insider Art and what that may look like (perhaps as varied in quality and content as Outsider Art). And why no serious artist would want that particular label attached to their art? To be self-taught in the arts - independent of the greater artistic structure - is a true accomplishment. If art is an ambiguous exercise in chaotic expression, symbolism and visual adventure, shouldn't being free of the hierarchical restrictions present in the artistic establishment be the true state all artists seek? Isn't the art produced therein heavier with meaning when originating from one who hasn't conformed with the artistic cursus honorum in order to create? The technical term most applicable to Condos' artistic process is Papier Colle, another French term translated as pasted paper and referring to a specific form of collage that is associated more closely with drawing than painting. Each element in the colored pencil drawings is an individual work of art that is created on smaller pieces of paper, trimmed and carefully pasted into the final composition. A cursory glance makes it difficult to ascertain Condos' method; each completed piece looks like a single colored pencil drawing. The payoff is when viewers realize the intricate and complicated nature of each collage and then consider the art historical ancestry of these works.

Papier Colle was first associated with Georges Braque and later Pablo Picasso. Wood grain papers and scraps from Le Journal newspapers were incorporated into seminal works by Braque and Picasso in 1912 and 1913. The fact that Condos intuits these ancestors and their methodology from a century ago (without any formal art education) is a testament to his unique virtuosity in developing a style and artistic vocabulary. His works are bottomless psychological ruminations masquerading as placid images of flowers and happy pets. They are drawn with vibrant colored pencil to suggest joy and aesthetic appreciation. What isn't readily apparent to the viewer is the context from which these pieces emerge. In most cases, the images are sketches from his childhood memories...the rare and shining moments between tempestuous events that populate his biography. Books, movies and imagery from his infancy and youth provide Condos with inspiration. The fact that his memories find their way out of his psyche and onto the paper is more of a miracle than casual observers can know. These visual cues represent an escape from circumstances that have incapacitated others. His art acts as an exorcism of personal demons. A dark lily stands-in for the collapse of his marriage. A plumbers tool pouch is much more than just a tool pouch...a symbolic trigger for accessing deep physical and emotional trauma. And yet, sometimes a sunflower is a sunflower. The trick is traipsing through a minefield of difficult personal history while taking time to marvel at the flashes of brilliance and quiet beauty and joy and artistic flourishes. James Condos' colorful collages succeed when they reveal glimpses of surface tranquility over a highly charged back story. A road map is presented in each and every piece that leads through a circuitous path of discovery, empathy and emotional healing. Perhaps these polarities deserve another stab at classification. Language can be sorely inadequate in some instances. We have the word tangerine, but we don't have a word that describes the smell of a newborn baby's head. We have Outsider Art but we don't have a term to explain the knowledge that behind every smiling face and soft-hued flower petal in Condos' work lurks a subplot with dark psychic fuel that gives this outsider a way in. DeWayne Lumpkin

Duane Megyesi


untitled 2.0 | James Condos | Outside/In  
untitled 2.0 | James Condos | Outside/In