In 2010, famous American rapper Kanye West released his new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, with an album cover so grotesque and disturbing that it was subsequently banned by iTunes. It depicted a morbid, frightful and aggressive caricature of the artist with a female phoenix across his lap, which is now blurred as the cover. The artwork was commissioned by from the New-York-based George Condo, perhaps one of the most influential painters of the last few decades. Known for his carnivalesque, shocking, and distorted take on classical portraiture in an iconic style that mixes references from pop culture, Disney, graffiti, and Surrealism to famous painters such as Velazquez, Picasso, and Francis Bacon into a distinct aesthetic that is entirely his own.

BEGINNINGS

Born in 1957, in New Hampshire, Condo attended the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, studying Music Theory and Art History. Moving to Boston, his career started with music — he joined the punk band The Girls, through which he met the Abstract painter Mark Dagley and the legendary Jean-Michel Basquiat, who eventually inspired the young Condo to move to New York and pursue an artistic path. Here, he was instantly engulfed in the crazy, vibrant New York scene – he worked at Andy Warhol’s factory on the Myths series, and started showing his work for the first time in East Village galleries in the early 1980s. It was also during these years that he coined Artificial Realism as a genre to describe his hybrid practice merging Old Master portraiture with American Pop elements. In Condo’s own words:

“It’s the realistic representation of that which is artificial. And in order to get to that realistic representation, you need a kind of traditional background in painting. And that’s what’s genius about Picasso. We all know he mastered painting as a teenager, and that from there on it was a mission of deconstruction.”

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