George Condo: The Way I Think at The Phillips Collection by Brendan L. Smith

George Condo may not be a household name, but his artwork looks both familiar and unique.

“The only way for me to feel the difference between every other artist and me is to use every artist to become me,” Condo has said.

His work pays tribute to Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Francis Bacon, but Condo has developed a signature style that explores our panoply of psychological states, ranging from humor and overt sexuality to our darker impulses mired in dark pits of fear and loathing.

While Condo is more well-known as a prolific painter, the Phillips Collection has amassed approximately 200 drawings, sketches, and sketchbooks along with some “drawing paintings” in George Condo: The Way I Think. The exhibition—on view until June 25 in The Phillips Collection—offers an expansive view of the 59-year-old artist’s work which blurs the lines between representation and abstraction. Condo embraces the grotesque and comical, reveling in a distorted carnival mirror of life where his reflections confound our expectations.

The Wedding Pianist (from sketchbook)

Condo has led a fascinating life, finding himself at the intersection of major art movements. He was a studio assistant in Andy Warhol’s factory in the 1970s, befriended fellow New York artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and moved to Paris in the 1980s. He collaborated with unhinged author William S. Burroughs in the 1990s and painted several different cover illustrations for Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album in 2010.

The final cover featured West having sex with a weird nude armless angel/phoenix/demoness adorned with white wings, feathered legs, and a polka-dotted tail. West claimed the album was banned in Wal-Mart, but that may have been the goal given his penchant for publicity stunts. Just ask Taylor Swift, Jay Z, or North when he gets a little older.

Condo pays homage to Picasso to an almost obsessive degree, and he coined the phrases “psychological cubism” and “artificial realism” to describe his own work. “Picasso painted a violin from four different perspectives at one time,” Condo said. “I do the same with psychological states.”

Double Heads Drawing

Several drawings in the exhibition, including a series called Double Heads Drawing, feature Picasso-esque portraits with faces emerging from a fractured maze of Cubist planes while uneven oversized eyes angle down toward maniacal grins. The work isn’t compelling because it looks too familiar. We know what to expect because we’ve seen it before, and while it was revolutionary in Picasso’s time, it just seems derivative now.

Condo’s work branches out more effectively into aspects of Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art in his own definitively weird stew. Some portraits and swirling scenes portray conflicting desires and uneasy psychological landscapes. In The Discarded Human, a beautiful nude woman’s body morphs sharply at her shoulders with a dislocated and darkened head. Only one menacing eye and two sharp rows of teeth emerge from the inky shadows. Her visage is both repulsive and attractive, combining lust, fear, and dread in a primordial soup of raw emotions.

Some of Condo’s sketches are displayed salon style from floor to ceiling, including some detailed drawings of dinosaurs inked in bright red or lime green when Condo was 7-years-old in the 1960s. In the center of another room, more than 100 sketchbooks are stacked in rows under glass, creating a sense of mystery about their contents. Only a few are opened to reveal pages inside. One note dated Aug. 27 with no year includes just one cryptic sentence: “I feel better than I have ever felt in my life.”

A 2009 graphite and colored pencil drawing titled Study for the Fallen Butler is a fascinating example of how a painting can transcend its conception. The drawing shows a debauched scene with a drunk tuxedoed butler slumped on the floor while raising his champagne glass toward the nude bottom of a woman bending over in a French maid costume. Drawn curtains behind them reveal a painting of rolling green hills beneath a cloudy sky. The setting may be a stately home while the master is away or the stage of a bawdy theatrical production, but the artifice is real, as Condo would say.

It’s difficult to compare the study for The Fallen Butler to the grand painting that followed because they aren’t located near each other in the exhibition. They aren’t even on the same floor in The Phillips Collection. Two rooms of Condo’s drawings and sketches are effectively displayed on the ground floor, but visitors then must consult a map, climb a flight of stairs, and walk past other exhibitions to find six of Condo’s large paintings shoehorned into a small claustrophobic room next to the restrooms. The inclusion of the paintings seems like an afterthought in the bifurcated exhibition or a strange curatorial decision to downplay the paintings because the exhibition’s theme focuses on Condo’s drawings.


The Fallen Butler

The Fallen Butler is worth seeing despite the location. The painting, on loan from the Museum of Modern Art, bears only a passing resemblance to the study as it transforms from a comical over-the-top scene toward a more vivid, subtle abstraction. The butler, or part of him, is still visible hoisting a large green bottle, but most of the maid has disappeared into the jumbled background except for a disjointed head with glaring eyes perched atop an elongated neck. Other small floating faces peek out from a patchwork quilt of colors that threatens to overwhelm the main characters. While the title references only the butler, the painting is an ensemble performance.

Another highlight is Spanish Head Composition which combines elements of painting, drawing and collage. A central figure has a scribbled Picasso-esque face on a painted body with a wide-brimmed hat and a swirling shirt with a clownish collar. He is surrounded by small portraits on paper that have been affixed to the canvas. The drawings vary in style and complexity, ranging the gamut from more representational to abstract. Some of the portraits appear to be studies for the large central figure, and the inclusion of the preparatory drawings in the final work offers a fascinating time line or view of roads not taken.


Spanish Head Composition

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Brendan L. Smith is a freelance journalist and mixed-media artist in Washington, D.C.

George Condo: The Way I Think will be on view at The Phillips Collection through June 25.  

august, 2019

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23aug - 25All DayProject P.S.

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Five dates only! August 16th, 23rd, 24th, 25th. Test/Industry night August 14th. Staggered entry times. Be sure to arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled entry time.

Project P.S. is a completely self-contained 45-60 minute multi-sensory experiences for a group of up to five people. Subjects needed. Join in on procedures and extractions of metaphysical kurayami with a biomechatronic sculptor to examine the hypothesis that one can obtain enlightenment. (Actualized by Mika Nakano.)

Please note: you will be required to ascend and descend at least two staircases at a relaxed pace. Plan to arrive a full fifteen minutes before your scheduled start time and to spend about an hour (or more if you choose) at The Peale. Beverages and light snacks will be available (donations appreciated). Restrooms will be accessible before and after the experience. Coat racks and safe storage for bags will also be available.

Updates and more info:
https://facebook.com/visionaryhistory/

Time

august 23 (Friday) - 25 (Sunday)

Location

The Peale Center

225 North Holliday Street, Baltimore MD 21202

25aug2:00 pm- 5:00 pmMinas Konsolas: CubiCityClosing Reception

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Join us for the closing reception of MINAS KONSOLAS: CUBICITY.

Konsolas was born in Greece and has lived in Baltimore since 1976, where he graduated from MICA. He is known for employing a variety of artistic styles and techniques, which allows his work to continually evolve. This body of work explores collage. Konsolas’ constant focus is how light interacts with color and form. This work is his attempt to express a heartfelt connection to Baltimore, his adopted hometown. By working with collage on canvas, the artist creates a warm, patchwork effect, reminiscent of a comfortable quilt. These pieces are his way of embracing the city that he loves so much.

Gallery hours are Thursday – Saturday 12:30 pm – 6:30 pm & Sunday 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Time

(Sunday) 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Location

The Alchemy of Art

1637 Eastern Ave, Baltimore MD 21231

28aug9:00 pm- 10:30 pmBaltimore Comedy FestivalOpening Ceremony

Event Details

8:00 – RECEPTION – Food, Fun and Vibes. Come and Enjoy the Motor House while DJ Dragn supplies music. Meet performing Comedians during this Opening Reception.

9:00 – SHOWCASE – Performing Comedians – Kiragu Beauttah, Bryson Young, Brandon Mitchell, Tink, Elizabeth Norman
and Archie Jamieson

FREE / DONATIONS AT DOOR

Time

(Wednesday) 9:00 pm - 10:30 pm

Location

Motor House

120 West North Avenue, Baltimore MD 21201

29aug6:00 pm- 8:00 pmMaker Conversation with Wild Kombucha

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Event Details

You love their local products, now you have an opportunity to hear their stories. Join Made in Baltimore at our Maker Conversation series at the Parkway Theatre, as we introduce you to maker entrepreneurs in our network. On August 29th, our business development coordinator, Keisha Ransome, sits down with the owners of Wild Kombucha to have a candid conversation about “making” in Baltimore. Learn about their brand, how Baltimore has embraced them, and their inspiration for creating komucha you love. After the conversation, join us in the theater lobby where you can purchase food, beverages, and enjoy kombucha.

Time

(Thursday) 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Location

SNF Parkway Theatre

3 West North Avenue, Baltimore MD 21201

29aug6:00 pm- 8:00 pmMary Orwen: Women of Jefferson Place GalleryClosing Reception + Curator's Talk

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Mary Orwen: Women of Jefferson Place Gallery
Curated by: John Anderson and Meaghan Kent

Exhibition Dates: June 6 – August 31, 2019
Closing Reception and Curator’s Talk: Thursday, August 29, 6-8pm

Cody Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of work by Mary Ryan Orwen (b. New York, NY 1913; d. Rochester, NY 2005). Her work, often expressive in color and form, investigates mark and the utility of globs, patches, and drips. Steeped in non-objective approaches when based in New York, once in Washington her work was re-rooted into a discipline of working from and responding to nature.

An emerging artist in New York in 1939, Orwen’s interest in the emotion of non-objective painting convinced her to abandon all other art. Her work caught the eye of Hilla Rebay, founding director of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (now the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), where Orwen would eventually exhibit in 1940 and 1942. After marrying Gifford P. Orwen in 1947, they settled in Washington, DC, where Gifford was employed by the State Department.

In DC, Orwen sought camaraderie in the nascent art department at American University, where she frequently exhibited at Watkins Gallery, and would periodically teach in the summers. It is likely through her associations with William H. Calfee and Robert F. Gates that the object re-emerged in her paintings, drifting between pure non-objective mark-making and work reminiscent of the titles she gave them: like “Sea Chant,” “Hollyhocks,” and “Gold Sea Growths.” Her work quickly garnered critical success. In 1949 she was awarded an “Artist of Tomorrow” by Whyte Gallery, and received awards from the Corcoran Area Annual in 1949 and 1951.

While recognizable objects returned to some of her paintings in the 1950s and 1960s, her non-objective approaches remained. “The glob of paint, the drip, the patch of color are all legitimate tools,” she wrote of her work in 1959. Orwen moved away from DC to Rochester, NY (by way of West Virginia), but would continue to employ these tools up until her final days.

Mary Ryan Orwen received her BA from Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, in 1935. Upon moving to New York she furthered her studies at the Art Student’s League, studying with Reginald Marsh, Harry Sternberg, and William Zorach, and at The New School, studying with Camilio Egas. After moving to DC, she began teaching at the Mount Vernon Seminary in the early 1950s, and shared a studio with Anne Truitt, from 1952–1957. In 1957, she began exhibiting almost exclusively with the Jefferson Place Gallery, where she continued to exhibit until 1967. In 1970 she was included in the retrospective “Washington: Twenty Years” at the Baltimore Museum of Art, which examined the ascendancy of the DC arts scene between 1950 and 1970. After relocating to Rochester, NY, she continued to paint, teach, and exhibit there for the next four decades, up until her death in 2005.

This exhibition will be the second of the series “Women of Jefferson Place Gallery”. The Jefferson Place Gallery was founded in 1957 by Alice Denney, and five art professors affiliated with American University: William H. Calfee, Robert F. Gates, Helene (McKinsey) Herzbrun, Mary Ryan Orwen, and Ben L. Summerford. Often credited for being the spark that ignited DC’s contemporary art scene in the 1960s and 70s, among the artists who exhibited at the gallery were Gene Davis, Kenneth Noland, Jacob Kainen, Howard Mehring, Tom Downing, Jennie Lea Knight, Rockne Krebs, Willem de Looper, and Sam Gilliam.

“Women of Jefferson Place Gallery” has been organized by Meaghan Kent, director of Cody Gallery, and John Anderson. John Anderson is an independent curator and writer. His research into the archives of Alice Denney and Jefferson Place Gallery culminated in the exhibition, “Making a Scene: The Jefferson Place Gallery” at American University Museum in 2017. A catalogue accompanied the exhibition. In addition, he has written several catalogue essays including “Seen and Unseen: Public Artworks by Sam Gilliam and Rockne Krebs,” Washington Studio School, and “Phyllis Plattner,” The American University Museum. Anderson is a contributor to Washington City Paper and re:sculpt.

Cody Gallery of Marymount University is located at 1000 North Glebe Road, 2nd Floor. Street parking and Capital Bikeshare are available. The gallery is located near the Metroline Orange: Ballston-MU.

Image: Mary Orwen, Untitled,1958, Oil on linen. Private Collection

Time

(Thursday) 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Location

Cody Gallery at Marymount University

1000 N Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22203

30aug - 1sepAll Day2019 Black Femme Supremacy Film Fest

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Event Details

The 2019 Black Femme Supremacy Film Fest is proud to return for its second year. This year’s festival will feature over 50 films including narratives, documentaries, music videos, web series, experimental films, and more! The BFS Film Fest takes place over three days (Friday, August 30th through Sunday, September 1st) at the SNF Parkway Theatre at Charles Street and North Avenue.

The BFS Film Fest centers Black Femme filmmakers and re-envisions the Black Femme as a global protagonist, empowering their stories through film. In addition to screening films that face systemic barriers of sexism, racism, and classism, BFS Film Fest strives to foster an intentional community of filmmakers and film-lovers alike.

The theme of the festival this year is Access. Festival programs will elaborate on subjects such as Access to Power, Access to Guidance, and Access to Love. Both Saturday and Sunday will feature a collection of Baltimore-made films, including B. Monet’s documentary Ballet After Dark and Antonio Hernadez’s documentary Indelible: Abdu Ali.

Friday’s Opening Night will feature Numa Perrier’s acclaimed film Jezebel.

Saturday’s programs include Mariama Diallo’s horror-comedy Hair Wolf and Iyabo Boyd’s surreal and introspective Me Time, as well as a Pitch Competition for up-and-coming filmmakers.

Sunday’s programs include Tchaiko Omawale’s coming-of-age feature Solace and Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel’s Happy Birthday Marsha, a documentary about the iconic transgender artist and activist Marsha Johnson and her life in the hours before she ignited the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City.

Time

August 30 (Friday) - September 1 (Sunday)

Location

SNF Parkway Theatre

3 West North Avenue, Baltimore MD 21201

30aug7:00 pm- 9:00 pmAdam Stab | Street Life ArtClosing Reception

Event Details

August 30, 7-9pm
Tickets: $15 in advance; $20 at the door

At the closing reception for ADAM STAB STREET LIFE ART, enjoy music in the garden and storytelling with Adam Stab!

Time

(Friday) 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Location

The Peale Center

225 North Holliday Street, Baltimore MD 21202

31augAll DayThe 3rd Annual CM.BALL

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Event Details

CM.POPS presents… The 3rd Annual CM.BALL

A popsicle party of epic proportions!

Featuring 12 HOURS of live music, DJ’s, video games, craft vendors, secret adventures, visual artist, fire spinners, a tea lounge and some of the best food in town

This is much more than a party or concert, this is a community based arts project showcasing some of the best creatives in the region
___________________________________________________________________

WHATS HAPPENING AT THE EVENT?!
Check out all of the list!

A+ Food Vendors✔️
Beer, Wine, & Artisan Drinks✔️
One Stage Vibe ✔️
Live Performances + DJ’s✔️
20+ Artisans / Retail / Local Business Vendors✔️
FREE PARKING ON SITE!✔️
Shaded Lounge Area✔️
Video Games + Activities✔️

August 31
2pm-2am

$15 Tickets Available now

More info at CMPOPS.COM

Time

All Day (Saturday)

Location

The Bambou

229 North Franklintown Road, Baltimore 21223

31aug7:00 pmHorse Lords, Smoke Bellow, DJ/MC Lexie Mountain

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Event Details

Horse Lords:
https://horselords.bandcamp.com/

?!!?!!?!!?!!?!!
Special guests TBA soon!

Smoke Bellow:
https://smokebellow.bandcamp.com/

and DJ/MC Lexie Mountain!

7PM
Come early, as the bands must end by 11pm!

This outdoor show will be held in our rear courtyard. Enter through the alley – Tyson Street, between Franklin and Mulberry.

*Bar will be open! (No BYOB please)*

Time

(Saturday) 7:00 pm

Location

Current Space

421 North Howard Street, Baltimore MD 21201