The Weird And Wonderful World Of Painter George Condo

| © Andrew Russeth/Flickr
Lily Cichanowicz

From November 19, 2016 through March 12, 2017, Berlin’s Museum Berggruen will be holding an exhibition of the works of American painter George Condo. While this city is hosting shows by hundreds of renowned artists at any given time, there is, indeed, something special about the weird and wonderful world brought to life in each of Condo’s paintings.

George Condo Telepoche Cut-Out, 1989 Oil and collage on canvas, 91.4 x 73.6 cm Collection of the artist, New York Courtesy Sprüth Magers and Skarstedt

The curators at the Berggruen felt this so strongly that they decided to hold the venue’s first ever contemporary art exhibition. The show will include a selection of Condo’s works spanning back from the ’80s through to the present. The point of connection between the modernist works typically displayed at the Berggruen is that the pieces displayed in this collection bear direct aesthetic links to the paintings of radical impressionists including Matisse, Klee, Giacometti, and Cézanne.

What makes this even more exciting is that some of what will be exhibited in this show will be on public display for the first time, including sculptures, drawings, and collages, expressing the extent and versatility of the artist’s talent. Seeing Condo’s colorful, quirky and, at times, shocking imagery in conjunction with the classic, whimsical works of iconic painters brings about an entirely original experience for those in attendance. Each piece is layered with references to these prolific artists, along with aspects of pop culture and, of course, Condo’s own visceral experiences.

George Condo Windswept Figure, 2007 Oil on canvas, 50.8 x 40.6 cm Collection of the artist, New York Courtesy Sprüth Magers and Skarstedt

In fact, the interface between his works and the works of his predecessors is a powerful theme in the show, which has been aptly titled, George Condo. Confrontation. The viewer is invited to explore the works of both Condo and his impressionist predecessors in a new light. The museum promises guests the chance to experience painting, ‘as a motor of references, traditions, and energies inexorably in movement that continues to inscribe itself in popular culture.’ Condo’s work is surreal and astonishing, providing an in-your-face reflection of our current cultural motifs and steeped in a deep tradition of the rebellious works of his forebears.

This isn’t the only layer to the show’s meaning, however. In the museum’s press release, Condo explains, ‘It’s not simply to have a confrontation with other artists, it’s about the idea that I make my work in a confrontation with myself and I’m confronting my demons, my depressions, my happiness, my existence.’

George Condo Woman with Cross, 2004 Oil on canvas, 40.6 x 30.5 cm Collection of the artist, New York Courtesy Sprüth Magers and Skarstedt

With all this in mind, what makes this exhibition so special is two-fold. Even the most seasoned art historian will find it to be a refreshing new take on Condo’s paintings, along with those of the modernists who came before him, even reawakening the viewer to the true radical nature of the modernists’ artistic contributions through the lens of the former. Meanwhile, they also provide new insights with regard to the work of one of the greatest and most influential contemporary artists of our time.

The museum is open Tuesday to Friday, 10am–6pm; Saturday and Sunday, 11am–6pm; closed Monday.

Museum Berggruen, Schloßstraße 1, Berlin, Germany

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