George Condo (b. 1957, Concord, NH) has occupied a central position in the landscape of American painting for nearly forty years. His unique and imaginative visual language pays tribute to a vast array of art-historical traditions and genres, drawing together elements of Old Master portraiture with allusions to contemporary American culture. Populated by a cast of characters whose bulging eyes, bulbous cheeks, proliferating limbs and hideous over- or under-bites mark them apart as a singular species, Condo’s art is profoundly original. The astonishing range of sources which his pictorial vocabulary draws upon is often noted, and yet this continuity across his hugely diverse painting practice bears witness to his achievement in absorbing the revolutionary genius of Picasso, Velazquez, Matisse, Arcimboldo, Pollock, Twombly and countless others and making them new; characteristically his own.
Priests, Cardinals, clowns and waiters, grotesque nudes, debutantes and eager society girls wearing pearl necklaces, whether alone or assembled into orgiastic groups, all stare confrontationally from his pictures. Condo has described his portraits as composites of various psychological states painted in different ways, reflecting the madness of everyday life; he calls this, ‘Artificial Realism’, defined as ‘the realistic representation of that which is artificial’. Condo’s paintings often fuse cartoon figures and human forms into a state of metamorphosis, each simultaneously reflecting a plethora of emotions and gestures; a scream and a laugh within a single expression. Sculptures too, and drawings continue this investigation of the macabre, the carnivalesque and the abject, as well as apparently abstract painting compositions from which the familiar physiognomies of Condo’s players emerge and retreat. Throughout his career, the artist has remained loyal to his personal aesthetic, crafting a uniquely inventive, multifarious and skilfully executed oeuvre that never fails to shock and delight.
Simon Lee Gallery is pleased to present WORDS, a group exhibition that explores the function of language and the role of text in art making. Whether dealing in political statements, ribald asides, poetry and literature or illegible scrawls and scribbles, the works in this exhibition comment on the ways in which ideas are exchanged and communication effected.
En Plein Air
Simon Lee Gallery, London, is pleased to present En Plein Air, bringing together works by artists who seek to reinterpret the artistic tradition of painting outdoors for a contemporary audience. The plein air approach has been prevalent since the mid-19th century, although it gained traction in the 1860s as a practice essential to the development of the Impressionist movement. While artists had long painted from observation to create preparatory sketches or studies, during this period the plein air method led to a naturalistic style that threw out the academic rulebook in the pursuit of formal and compositional spontaneity. The artists included in En Plein Air are united by a desire to refresh the audience’s interpretation of outdoor painting, whether via landscapes or portraits, photography or painting, figuration or abstraction, and in this way, the exhibition explores scenes of the outdoors in relation to contemporary studio practice.
The advent of the home studio in the 1970’s democratized both music and art, with cities like New York becoming significant platforms for the convergence of both practices. Partially due to financial instability brought on by urban decay and political neglect, artists embraced a do-it-yourself mentality which inevitably led to interdisciplinary experimentation. Although this time period was marked by metropolitan downturn, the phenomenal successes of these new wave forms of art making led to their ironic commercialization. Through a diverse group of artists and media, New Pleasure showcases the intersection of music and art after punk rock and investigates how artists have taken direct influence from musicians, have participated within either genre, or have performed as musicians themselves.
An Uncanny Likeness
Simon Lee Gallery is pleased to present An Uncanny Likeness, a group exhibition organized by Franklin Melendez and Romain Dauriac in the newly re-launched New York space.
The show revisits the legacy of portrait painting bringing together a diverse group of artists whose practice revolves around the re-drawing of the figure. Eschewing the ‘faithful reproduction’ as convention, these artists pursue emotive distortion and stylistic idiosyncrasies that foreground painting’s relationship to the body. The resulting tableaux are thick with symbolic meaning, conjuring altered states and arcane visions that are as indebted to the virtuosic flourishes of Mannerist painters as the elastic possibilities of present day visualizing techniques.