Skarstedt is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by George Condo titled Double Heads / Black Paintings / Abstractions, featuring large-scale paintings created in 2014 at his East Hampton studio.
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Condo’s Double Heads and Black Paintings continue his investigation of the concept of portraiture. In these most recent works, Condo has adopted Harold Rosenberg’s idea of ‘action painting’— a term used to describe the performative, often volatile energy exercised by Abstract Expressionist painters like de Kooning and Pollock—to create his own ‘action portraits.’ Through an elaborate process of layering, erasure, and reconstruction, shattered images of faces and bodies emerge from and interact within a field of abstract forms.
Incorporating the use of silver metallic paint in Double Portrait in Grisaille on Silver, 2014, and other works in this series, Condo references Warhol’s silver paintings from the 1960’s such as Double Elvis. After preparing a ground of silver paint on canvas, Condo applies ivory black onto loose sheets of paper, which is then transferred onto the canvasses, giving them the look and surface quality of a screen print. He then creates a schism in this form by subsequently employing the traditional technique of grisaille to draw out the figures by hand.
In creating such large-scale paintings in a very confined studio space, Condo has been forced to work ‘inside’ his paintings, addressing both subject and material at close range—never stepping too far back from the canvas to allow the image in his mind to entirely materialize. Both gestural improvisation and concrete imagery are evident as he forcefully pushes and pulls the paint around the surface of the canvas until a final image emerges, fully formed yet haunted by the process of its becoming. In Beginnings, 2014, a large square format painting, a single eye peers out from the devastation of what at one time might have been a full portrait. This process of addition, subtraction and layering evokes a visceral response to both the handling of paint and the subject of the painting.
Partially obscured by violent brush marks, the likenesses of the figures and characters in Condo’s paintings are integrations of forms that the brushwork fractures. Facial features peek out from underneath fields of color as broad strokes of bold black and white paint shatter the pictorial plane. The simultaneous multiple expressions of his portraits speak to the volatility of human emotions and the unpredictability—even hilarity—of the characters one encounters in urban life.
The abstract works in this exhibition fluctuate between the lyrical and the hysterical, building upon the cacophony of interacting forms for which Condo is known. In Silver Mass, 2014, as well as several other works on view, Condo extends the lineage of his series of abstract ‘expanding canvasses’, which began in the early 1980’s, to invent ever new painterly forms and hints of human expression.
Double Heads / Black Paintings / Abstractions will be on view at Skarstedt Chelsea (550 W. 21st Street) from November 8 through December 20, 2014.