George Condo, the fiftysomething artist behind Kanye West’s infamously controversial album covers, has a pretty popular solo retrospective show at the New Museum in Soho called “The Mental States.”
But the critics are not all on the same page about his work, which deals a lot with wildly distorted caricature-portraits. The Village Voice calls his paintings “conceptually light as air” and “like Big Macs, Bon Jovi records, and episodes of The Real Housewives, George Condo’s popularity has long resided in that Animal House portion of the head turned more by the devil than the angel on the shoulder.” Harsh yes. On point? Now that’s much more subjective.
But the New York Times calls the show “sensational” and describes the opening salon where visitors are greeted by a near-floor-to-ceiling wall of his paintings as “a tour de force of stylistic multitasking and figurative variety.” The New York Observer doesn’t offer a critique of the show per se but writes about Condo’s getting his moment now (again) after being lauded as a genius in the same class as his 80s contemporary Jean-Michel Basquiat. The explanation: “He gives us something different, something strange. He’s created his own language, an unforgettable one….He’s on a roll, making his best works ever.”
Perhaps the most comprehensive account of Condo’s career was in the New Yorker a few weeks ago, where over 10 pages Calvin Tompkins touches on all the important aspects of Condo’s reemergent celebrity. You need a digital subscription to read the profile but it’s definitely worth the time and effort to track it down.
In the meantime, check out the show for yourself and see what touches you. Is it the grotesque portraits, the abstract canvases, the sculptures or all of the above? Or none of the above? You make the call. Check out the slideshow here to get a sense of what’s in store.