George Condo's simultaneous new shows opened in London last week, one at Skarstedt and one at Simon Lee Gallery. For reasons I am not yet sure of these shows inspired me more than anything I have seen for a long time.
Some people will only know George Condo for his work with Kanye West following his artwork for his album 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy', but prior to working with Kanye West, he collaborated with others including William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. His art career having started in earnest after his band supported Jean-Michele Basquiat's band Gray and he subsequently moved to New York and worked at Andy Warhol's factory.
George Condo's work is instantly recognisable, his subjects, manically grinning, bug eyed and brimming with insanity.
The exhibitions show the 'death' and subsequent 'birth' of periods of work. The show at Skarstedt comprises of mainly black white large-scale ink drawings of Condo's group of characters the pods people.
Condo has painted and repainted what became the pod people over the years but these black and white ink drawings can represent nothing but the death of them, as they appear bleak and twisted. When I asked Condo why he chose this moment to kill them off he answered, "...they played out their life cycle and are leaving me with the chance to explore new... I see them as receding into an abstract atmosphere and returning to wherever they came from. I can't really say what."
Following a near death experience Condo described in The Guardian the artist found himself to be in what he referred to as a weirder state of mind than usual, it was during his recovery from this ordeal that the new works and characters were born.
On looking at the works it is instantly obvious that this is a change in direction, the palette, the composition and the references have all changed. From Rembrandt to Picasso, from deep colours to practically pastel, the work has changed in an interesting way.
The drawings have more cubist elements to them then in previous work, although Condo's visual language is still very clear, there is a new direction that he is taking which is very exciting to see.
"I believe the portrait is still the theme of these pieces in as much as we can recognize the presence of someone in there, they are for the most part expressions of joy for me ... Expressions of being alive and enjoying the colours of life."
Not only have the composition, subject matter and palette but the drawings are clearly more abstract and one can only wonder if this is the direction his work is taking and if so, how far will he take it?
"... I have been working towards a new painting of the figure in which you know it is a portrait without me really having to represent the subject. It is not a painting of "something" it is something in and of itself. The experience of looking is very important to me in the new works..."
The new works are an explosion of colour, shape and emotion, kaleidoscopes of tangents and meanings.
Although I may be labouring the point I feel that I should add that I cannot wait to see how this manifests itself. Like a muso waiting for a new record I look keenly forward to seeing Condo's next show.