Robert Longo, Men In The Cities (I), 1990. Courtesy of Taglialatella Galleries.

Robert Longo: Men in the Cities

Arguably Robert Longo’s most influential series, the 60 hyperrealistic drawings in “Men in the Cities” (1977–83) portray men and women wearing traditional business clothes in exaggerated, contorted poses. Longo found inspiration for “Men in the Cities” in the final scene of the film The American Soldier (1970), in which two gangsters are gunned down unexpectedly, seeming to dance as their bodies fall to the ground. Drawn to the theatricality of this fatal moment, Longo wanted to capture how a body might look after being hit by a bullet. To create these dramatic gestures, a 25-year-old Longo brought his friends (including fellow photographer Cindy Sherman and gallerist Larry Gagosian) to the roof of his New York studio and photographed them as they were pummeled by tennis balls, pulled by ropes, and surprised by loud noises. Longo’s muses jumped, twisted, and recoiled in surprise, but also appeared to dance like punk-rockers. These photographs, along with their corresponding charcoal drawings and lithographs, are considered iconic treasures from the 1980s New York art scene, held in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and other prominent institutions—even appearing in the background the cult classic film, American Psycho, where a pair of lithographs hangs in the protagonist Patrick Bateman’s apartment.

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