George Condo: Mental States at the Hayward Gallery

George Condo – Bankers, Brokers, Butlers and Queens

He has been responsible for some of the art world’s most provocative work over the past 30 years, including paintings of Queen Elizabeth II as you’ve never seen her before, and that Kanye West album cover. This week sees the opening of a major retrospective of George Condo, one of America’s most influential living artists.

 

George Condo is famed for his grotesque figures and portraits, wrought unforgettably through misshapen limbs, asymmetrical eyes and terrifying toothy mouths. Yet he is also an artist who expertly straddles the divide between lofty artistic realms and populist appeal, simultaneously hailing old master techniques yet satirising them through unashamed irreverence.

The three sections the exhibition is divided into – Portraiture; Mania and Melancholia; Abstract-Figuration – offer a sense of Condo’s sheer range. His audacious and often unsettling blend of artistic influences has resulted in a richly diverse body of work, from sculptures and portraits of instantly recognisable figures, to cartoonish subjects and contemporary surrealism.

This stylistic range in turn evokes a whole barrage of feelings on the part of the viewer: many works, like ‘Portrait of a Lady’, are stunning in their vibrancy, whilst others such as ‘Uncle Joe’ are sickeningly funny in their brazen depiction of twenty-first century life. Despite being rendered through seemingly alienating, puckered faces and abstract block-like figures, the work effortlessly unveils the complexities of the mental state: Condo captures emotions that are painfully recognisable within ourselves, as he urges us to follow his daring vision and confront human feeling at its most raw.

The exhibition received rave reviews when it opened at the New Museum in New York earlier this year, and looks set for yet more success as it goes on show to the UK public.

George Condo: Mental States is at the Hayward Galley on the Southbank from 18th October 2011 – 8th January 2012.

words Claire Ramtuhul