Tuesday, December 31

George Condo vs Pablo Picasso

I feel the need to discuss this bag. Yes, the Hermes disaster that Kanye West gave to Kim Kardashian.

Let me preface this discussion by stating that I am not into celebrity gossip, but I am into art and this bag has been all over the news because of the people involved in it's making. I can't pass up the opportunity to discuss what my reaction was to the painting when it first crossed my news feed.

This bag is a vulgar display of entitlement, and little else — let me explain why.

Let us pretend that we know nothing about the patron and discuss the painting for paintings sake.  Is it offensive because the figures are naked? No, not in my opinion. 

Nudity is a common theme in art, and the human figure has been explored in this way before. In fact, it is a positive thing that this topic continues to be referenced.

The discussion usually goes like this — are they nude or naked? “Nude” implies that the figure is aware of being exposed and is exposing themselves to the viewer on purpose.

I would argue that the upward and confrontational views of these figures proves them to be nude. They are aware of being seen and are posed to display their nudity. A fantastic article on nudity, A Plea for the Fig Leaf, can be found at jstor.org if you desire to dig deeper into that topic.

Now, as for the bag itself, it's not exactly an original. It is actually a copy of a painting that George Condo had already done; the following painting is called Nocturnal Figure Composition painted in 2004.

This canvas is much more refined in terms of the quality of painting. Condo’s brush strokes are cleaner, his shading is more carefully blended, the use of contrasting darks and lights is well balanced. Essentially, it is obvious that he took the time to think, plan, and create with care. 

There is also a painting that Condo's "original" bears striking similarities to, a little work called Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso done in 1907. Picasso, and specifically this painting, is what I instantly thought of the moment I saw that bag.

Notice the similar confrontational poses, the nudity, and the exaggerated green masks. In the Condo painting seems there is a very obvious nod to the green African tribal mask that Picasso used as a reference to tribalism in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
When Picasso created his painting, originally titled The Brothel of Avignon, his intention was to make these women look animalistic, menacing and rough; the tribal masks, as well as the cubism, were meant to make the women look less than human.

Though the Condo painting rounds out the figures to remove the cubist elements, the composition of his figures is very similar. In the painting on the bag Condo returns to some of the cubist elements, breaking one of the faces into a distorted, very Picasso derived, expression.

George Condo did study Art History in college, and Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is one painting that EVERY Art History student should recognize. The odds are high that Condo had this composition in mind when he set brush to canvas.

Primarily, my beef with the bag is not in the subject or the composition — I am really just turned off by the quality of the painting. It is much less refined than his canvas version. It seems that a patron said, "Make me an original bag!" and George Condo thought, "Eh, I'll just repaint something from my portfolio and make some quick cash."

1 comment:

Laure said...

Very good analysis and interesting info about the bag and the artist, George Condo and also the reference to Pablo Picasso