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Hayward Gallery Presents George Condo. Mental States

The Hayward Gallery at the Southbank Centre in London presents George Condo: Mental States on view 18 October 2011–8 January 2012.

The Hayward Gallery brings to London the first major retrospective exhibition of the American artist George Condo. Since his emergence in New York’s East Village in the early 1980s with his ‘fake Old Master’ canvases, George Condo has created one of the most adventurous, imaginative, and provocative bodies of work in contemporary art. George Condo: Mental States is the first major survey of paintings and sculptures from the past twenty-eight years of the artist’s career. Organised by the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre and curated by Hayward Director, Ralph Rugoff, the exhibition premièred at New Museum, New York in January to critical acclaim, and was recently shown at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. The Hayward Gallery presentation features some 80 works, and includes nine of Condo’s portraits of Her Majesty The Queen.

Condo’s approach to making art unsettlingly conjoins the beautiful and the grotesque, seriousness and outlandish wit. He has populated his canvases with an arresting parade of tragicomic beings, which for all their oddness and outrageous humour and their caricatured features, are deeply immersed in the traditions of European and American painting. Focusing on his ‘imaginary portraits’, which conjure varied mental states with a mixture of absurdity and pathos, the exhibition also features portraits of historical subjects such as Jesus and the Madonna as well as Her Majesty Elizabeth II, exploring the breadth of Condo’s artistic vision.

Displayed in the upper galleries of the Hayward Gallery, George Condo: Mental States is organised thematically and stylistically in ‘chapters’ developed in close collaboration with the artist—Portraiture, Mania and Melancholia, and Abstract-Figuration.

In the Portraiture section are works from all periods of the artist’s career, including nine of Condo’s portraits of The Queen and a series of ten sculptural heads all cast in bronze and nine of which have a gilded surface. More than 30 paintings with a variety of styles and subjects are presented in a ‘portrait wall’ dramatically hung floor to ceiling in a salon style. Featuring a range of fantasy characters, these portraits often incorporate elements from masterpieces by artists including Velázquez and Goya. The characters are recognisable archetypes—butlers, businessmen, clergy and biblical figures—familiar despite their humorously grotesque features.

Mania and Melancholia presents a selection of canvases from the past decade, which portray lonely and marginalised figures as well as scenes of manic decadence, engaging with the social and psychological undercurrents of our ‘boom and bust’ era. The Abstract-Figuration group of large-scale works demonstrate Condo’s ongoing interest in abstraction and his reimagining of the work of modern Masters such as Picasso. This section includes Condo’s recent ‘drawing paintings’ made on canvas in charcoal, pastel and acrylic paint.

George Condo: Mental States is organised by the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre and curated by Hayward Director, Ralph Rugoff.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring essays by Ralph Rugoff and Laura Hoptman, Curator at the Museum of Modern Art and contributions by the writers Will Self and David Means.

In the lower galleries of the Hayward the first major UK survey show of the pioneering video artist Pipilotti Rist: Eyeball Massage opened on 28 September 2011.

Hayward Gallery
Belvedere Road
London SE1 8XZ
Southbank Centre

Image: George Condo, “Jesus,” 2002., Image courtesy Luhring Augustine.
© the artist.

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