Who is George Condo?

Exhibition at The Phillips Collection, Washington DC.

Installation view of George Condo: The Way I Think. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

With a net worth of almost as much as the celebrities he creates works for, George Condo has quickly taken over the celebrity art world. Even if you have never heard his name, chances are you have seen some of his work. The truth is, Condo has a foothold over our culture in ways that we may not even know. Condo was born in Concord, New Hampshire, and has worked with the likes of Kim Kardashian and Jack Kerouac. One of his biggest clients has been Kanye West, who he worked with to explore everything from twitter profile pictures to album cover art and back-up dancers for a VMA performance.

Condo is also known for his breakdown of pictorial images in a way that differs from mainstream art historical styles such as expressionism or surrealism. Instead, he creates a hybridization of different styles to create his own unique one. His art is filled with inventiveness and existential humor. The Way I think surveys over 200 works spanning Condo’s entire career, including a few drawings of when he was just eight year old. This exhibition gives us a view into the mind of the artist and how he sees the world around him. It is rather extraordinary to peer into the humorous world of someone who is as talented and established as Condo.

Britta Galanis, Marketing & Communications Intern

The Way He Thinks

Condo installation-13_Lee Stalsworth

Installation view of George Condo: The Way I Think. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

German artist George Condo has attracted international attention for decades. A man who befriended Basquiat, worked for Warhol, and collaborated with Kim and Kanye was in DC for the opening of his show The Way I Think here at the Phillips. When speaking with friends about what may be my favorite DC show, mention of the name George Condo usually invites a response along the lines of, “Oh yeah, the Kanye guy.” Condo received a flood of media attention in 2010 when his design for Kanye West’s album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was deemed “explicit” by providers like Wal-Mart and iTunes. “The superimposition of people’s perceptions on a cartoon is shocking,” Condo responded at the time. This would not be the last attack on Condo’s art, as his painting on a handbag for Kim Kardashian in 2013 met similarly skeptical reviews on social media.

Through instances like these, Condo’s work raises the issue of censorship. For Condo in particular, censorship is stifling, and it’s easy to see why in The Way I Think, an array of over 200 works arranged and installed with Condo’s guidance. The exhibit reads like Condo’s own train of thought, complete with piles of diligently kept notebooks and sketchbooks. The sheer volume of work in the exhibition is breathtaking, and the alarming nature of Condo’s figures are captivating. The exhibit is laid out just as it sounds; the way the artist thinks. The exhibition revives the age old question of whether art—any art—should be censored. Can we censor thought? What about thought on paper? Condo’s reliance on his own memory and psychology as sources of artistic inspiration make it difficult to imagine a “parental advisory” sticker plastered across one of his pieces.

It is probable that The Way I Think will elicit a range of emotional responses as wide as Condo’s artistic styles. Without question, George Condo’s intersections with music, celebrity, and popular culture make his art irresistibly interesting to any viewer. I think, however, it is the personal depth and furious imagination of the artist which will make this particular exhibit magnetic and intimate for each and every visitor.

Elizabeth Federici, Marketing & Communications Intern

How “Drawing Paintings” Destroy an Artistic Hierarchy

“‘Drawing Paintings’ are something that were a reaction to the hierarchy that supposedly exists between drawing and painting. What I wanted to do was combine the two of them and make drawing and painting the same level [so] that there was no real difference.” Artist George Condo introduces his installation The Way I Think, on view through June 25, 2017.