George Condo, ‘Memories of Spain’, 1991, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
George Condo’s abstract paintings of the late 20th century are unique in their appropriation of various languages of representation, transformed into the personal language of the artist himself. His colorful, expansive canvases bear resemblance to Pablo Picasso’s cubism, Joan Miró’s surrealist compositions, Willem de Kooning’s grotesque figuration, and Jackson Pollock’s drips, all at once. After his “Expanding Canvas” series of the 1980s, the motifs of which are particularly reminiscent of the forms found in de Kooning’s figurative and abstract work, Condo experimented with the influence of other art forms on his work, such as jazz music. For Condo, abstraction and jazz both share aspects of improvisation and creative freedom. In his “Portraits Lost in Space” series from the 1990s, Condo experiments with this idea in abstract canvases interspersed with the names of famous jazz musicians. Similar to some of his modern predecessors like Wassily Kandinsky, Condo fuses the symbolic associations of sound, color and abstraction. In this series the stylization of abstract form and the speedy unpredictable nature of jazz arrangements complement each other, one in direct dialogue with the other.

The present lot, Memories of Spain, 1991, seems to fall in a unique place between the two series, bearing similarities to his musically-inspired paintings from “Portraits Lost in Space” and “Expanding Canvas”. In Memories of Spain, Condo fuses the abstract articulation of jazz with the biomorphic forms and colors found in the art of Miró. Unlike his jazz paintings, in which the musician’s name is juxtaposed with the free-flowing abstract application of the paint, here music is suggested aesthetically through the dots, squares, and ordered black shapes that call to mind sheet music and the genre’s sporadic nature. Memories of time spent in Spain appear on the canvas as homage to the unique spatial arrangements found in Miró’s compositions. As Laura Hoptman explains, “Filtered through Condo’s mind, the experience and moment, the subject of memories is the way in which the younger artist has assimilated the vocabulary of the older one.” (Laura Hoptman, “Abstraction as a State of Mind,” George Condo: Mental States, exh. cat., New Museum, New York, 2011, p. 27). In this way, the present lot is a testament to Condo’s ability to redefine modernist interpretations and express them in new and innovative ways, while still evoking a sense of nostalgia for painting’s past.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed, titled and dated "George Condo 91 Memories of Spain" on the reverse

Simon Lee Gallery, London
Private Collection, Paris
Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, March 31, 2008, lot 117
Private Collection, Belgium (acquired at the above sale)
Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, May 11, 2012, lot 157
Private Collection, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About George Condo

George Condo’s work is populated by a cast of characters whose bulging eyes, bulbous cheeks, proliferating limbs, and hideous over- and under-bites set them apart as a singular species. Drawing on vastly diverse painting practices—like Pablo Picasso, Diego Velázquez, Henri Matisse, and Cy Twombly—Condo absorbs a vast range of art-historical sources, yet, at the same, creates a pictorial language characteristically his own, one that investigates the macabre, the carnivalesque, and the abject. He calls his surrealistic style “psychological cubism”, exploiting “our own imperfections—the private, off-moments or unseen aspects of humanity—that often give way to some of painting’s most beautiful moments.” Even Condo’s most abstract works, like Internal Space (2005) with its impenetrable geometric scaffolding of forms radiating from the painting’s center, explore the furthest extremes of the human psyche.

American, b. 1957, Concord, New Hampshire, based in New York, New York