Friday, May 13, 2011

Robert Longo

Part XIII of a series about the possibility of a rebirth, or at least the presense of Social Realism in the Post Postmodern (Popomo) / Metamodern.


Oscillation (Media)

Charcoal on mounted paper, C-print, charcoal and Ink on mounted paper, C-print mounted on museum board, charcoal, graphite, ink and chalk on vellum, brass & copper bullets and steel, charcoal and graphite on paper, raw pigment and medium on unprimed canvas, cast wax, calcinated wood, oil and paint, cast bronze, Silkscreen and enamel on aluminum; acrylic and oil on wood, Acrylic and charcoal on shaped canvas; cast bronze on motorized platform of steel and wood, film.

I make some Comments based on the list

The only reason for the use of any of the above media/materials seems to be the following. Whatever it takes to complete the artist’s vision! The list is ordered temporally from the media used in the most recent to the oldest artworks. There was no method to my madness. I did notice that Robert Longo often returns to charcoal and/or graphite on paper as a preferred medium, and that created an oscillation or movement between and among all other media and this preferred black and white medium.

List of Some of the Most Recent Artworks with sizes included

The Mysteries - God Machines, Untitled (White Tiger) 94.5 x 70 inches, Synagogue 120 x 300 inches, untitled (North Cathedral) 70 x 117, untitled (my wife, Barbara, in a Burka) 96 x 70 inches, Daddy’s Caddy 59&3/8 x 96 inches. Yingxiong, Heroes – Iceman 40 & 1/8 x 46 inches, Starbuck 45 & 15/16 x 39 & 15/16 inches, Ulysses 80 x 70 inches. Balcony – Angel 58 x 70 inches, Gloria 58 x 96 inches, Untitled (No. 2) 41 7 1/8 x 91 & ½ inches. Perfect Gods, 2007 – Untitled (Big Shark) 73 & 1/8 x 70 inches, Untitled (Shark 4) 88 x 70 inches, Untitled (Claudius) 70 x 96 inches. Heritage, 2006 – Untitled (after C B.) 3 & 1/16 x 5 & 11/16 inches, Untitled (After Delacroix, The Barque of Dante – 1822) 5 & ½ x 7 & 3/8 inches, Untitled (After Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ, 1602) 5 & 11/16 x 7 & 11/16 inches, Untitled (After Picasso, Guernica, 1937) 3 & ½ x 7 & ¾ inches, Untitled (After Rauschenberg, Retroactive, 1, 1964) 6 & ¼ x 4 & ½ inches. The Sickness of Reason, 2003 – (Untitled, Bikini Atol/1946) 72 x 96 inches, Mike Test (Head of Goya), 72 x 96 inches, Russian Bomb (Them) Semipalatinsk.

I Make Some Comparisons Based on the Above List.

I stopped the list of artworks at 2003 simply because to continue cataloging titles of artwork and dimensions would be pointless, unless that were the reason for making this journal entry. Actually, if I were a schizophrenic Metamodernist, perhaps that would be a cool option, but pointless, and I’m sure Popomo / Metamodern artists do not consider their work to be pointless. Besides, I can draw a conclusion based on the various sizes of these artworks because they range from Brobdingnagian to miniature in scale. Personally, I like to work large because it is easier. I don’t know if that would be true for all artists, and I wonder why Robert Longo decided to oscillate between these two opposing scales. In the “Heritage” series he pays homage to the masters of the past, so why make these black and white charcoal miniatures about the great masters of the past so small? How are they less important than his artwork which are normally large in scale? A bit of ironic reference to his ego, perhaps. Perhaps he is simply contrasting two ways of working, “here are these little tiny drawings. Look at them next to my huge drawings.” Does he like the challenge created by working on such a small scale? I have question after question, and I wonder what Robert Longo's actual response to these questions would be.

It’s time for another list, though this one is short. *

1970’s – Robert Longo’s Menthol Wars, a punk rock act in which he was also lead guitarist.

1980’s – music videos like Bizarre Love Triangle, New Orders, Peace Sells, and The One I love.

1980’s – Album Covers - Glenn Branca's The Ascension from 1981 and The Replacements' 1985 album, Tim.
Mid 1980’s - Opera XS: The Opera Opus with Rys Chatham and Joseph Nechvatal

1995 – Motion picture, Johnny Mnemonic, and other short pieces.

So, in addition to all the media listed in the first section above, we must add, motion picture film. We must also note that Robert Longo has created album covers for musical groups, has had his own musical group in which he played guitar, and made images that were used in opera, a kind of music/drama.

I have a little something in common with the artist

I first became aware of Longo’s work with his “Men in the Cities” series, 1979.

I was also working on over sized graphite on paper portraits of great Twentieth Century Iconic figures at the time, though I hesitate to compare my work to those of this great master - simply a mark of the zeitgeist, I suppose. Never the less, the “Men in the Cities” series were captivating because the figures seemed to be caught in a spasmodic dance, the response to a sudden nervous shock, pain and/or anguish. With interest sparked because we both were working in the same medium, I continued to follow his career to the present. I've found Robert Longo to be the perfect Metamodernist. His work oscillates between various genres and media, sometimes huge and sometimes Lilliputian, sometimes painful, sometimes ironic. The work may be black and white or color, 3 dimensional, 2 dimensional or a combination. He often uses extremely large images drawn with charcoal and/or graphite or ink on paper in a photorealistic style with extreme contrast that lends weight and emphasis to subjects like, sharks, nuclear explosions, and cyborg-like human heads. Robert Longo, a Renaissance man is an amazing prolific artist, whose oeuvre implies an oscillation between and among visual and musical arts, as well as a Social Realist movement in the past, and his tangential Metamodern interest in making clear and present a dark and dangerous presence that threatens our diurnal existence.

Notes *

Smulders, Caroline and Perlein, Gilbert, Robert Longo. Skira Rizzoli (2010).

Longo, Robert, Wikipedia, Viewed 10:00 AM. EDT. Thursday, May 12, 2011

Longo, Robert, Website,, viewed 10:30 AM. EDT, Thursday, May 12, 2011.

"Long Playing". Barbara Krakow Gallery. Retrieved May 3, 2010. Viewed 10:34 AM. EDT. Thursday, May 12, 2011

*2 Longo, Robert, "Russian Bomb (Them) Semipalatinsk" from The Sickness of Reason, (2003). Robert Long Website at Viewed 12:04 AM EDT, Saturday, May 14, 2011. One time use of an image for academic purposes is a legitimate use of copyrighted material.

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