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In a recent painting titled Zombie Modernism (2015), George Condo divides the canvas into an uneven, disheveled grid—a stoplight succession on the top portion, primary colors to the left, and muddled grey in the bottom right-hand corner. The title is perhaps a self-aware dumb joke, mocking the monotonously rehashed rectangles of bygone generations. The composition is slashed by a staggered black-and-white cubist comic strip, frenetically zig-zagging like an escalator gone haywire. The parts of this whole prove to be ironically indicative of the dizzying effects of desired capital and cachet.
Condo allegedly made this painting—and many of the others in his current exhibition at Sprüth Magers—while listening to radical jazz innovators such as John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy. These individuals were among those responsible for the sophisticated improvisational musings that had been the soundtrack to much of the work created during the milestones of modernism. Despite this association with the past, Condo manages to scale the surfaces of his paintings with satire and deliberation.
Unlike the self-serious modernists who preceded him, he has consistently sought out fresh ways to interrupt the standardized, elegant riffing on post-war painting, without over-intellectualizing his practice into vague postmodern posturing, or willfully reducing it to abject nose-thumbing. Throughout the show, Condo cites Picasso, in his multiple Diagonal Portrait paintings (each 2016); Kline, in Entrance to the Void (2015); and Guston, in Reflections in my Mind and Tumbling Forms (both 2015). With each reference, there is a personal disruption at play—not a lashing out, but rather, a desire to uniquely join this distinguished club.
George Condo: Entrance to the Void runs April 20–June 11, 2016 at Sprüth Magers (5900 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036)