It’s always a joy to visit the Hauser & Wirth in downtown L.A. in the Arts District. The Swiss based company has 19 galleries around the world and has built a reputation for its dedication to artists and support of visionary projects worldwide. What I especially admire about Hauser & Wirth is its conservation efforts, which include rehabilitating old buildings and turning them into galleries. As a result, visitors have the opportunity to not only enjoy art, but also the architecture of each gallery. That’s a big plus for the downtown L.A. location, especially for students at SCI-Arc (one of the best architectural schools in the country) located down the street from the gallery. A visit to Hauser & Wirth, can be an educational experience viewing art, architecture as well as being privy to conversations between moderators and the artists whose work is on view. One of my most memorable experiences was an Alexander Calder exhibition at Hauser & Wirth that included a Q&A and tour with the late artist’s grandson. However, on any given day, one can find inspiration at Hauser & Wirth galleries.
Now, students on the Westside including folks at UCLA can visit the new Hauser & Wirth location in WEHO with minimal public transportation gymnastics. The gallery opened on February 15 in an old Spanish Colonial Revival building that once housed a vintage automobile sales showroom. It has been transformed into a stunning 6,000 square foot exhibition space by architect Annabelle Selldorf. Selldorf has history with Hauser & Wirth having designed other company galleries including its Arts District location, a venue in NYC (on 22nd street) and a newer location in Monaco that opened in 2021. The WEHO location sums up Selldorf's design approach as described in an October article from Wallpaper.com, “Selldorf draws on the elegance of minimalist architecture to create buildings that stand out through their pared-down sophistications, and rich, yet understated nature.”
The inaugural exhibition at the new WEHO location is George Condo’s “People Are Strange” (Feb. 15th thru April 22, 2023). Condo is an American visual artist, who works in painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking. He studied art history and music theory at UMass Lowell. Condo has lived a very fascinating life, that includes working with Andy Warhol, playing music with Basquiat and designing handbags for Kim K. Condo was also close friends with pop artist Keith Haring before his death in 1990. His talent, training and curiosity have taken him far. Condo surrounded himself with a variety of people throughout his years outside of the art world including intellectuals and authors such Williams Burroughs, who he collaborate with. In addition, during the mid ’80s to mid ‘90s he had a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, living in hotels and rented studios between New York and Paris. While in Paris, he met and befriended French psychoanalyst and political philosopher, Felix Guattari. It’s through these associations that Condo’s artistic instincts thrived. According to Condo, the artist is uniquely equipped to translate the ineffable effects of time, acknowledging that ‘the transformation of society and people is something we all feel but that a painter can actually show.’
At the WEHO gallery opening, Condo sat down in front of an audience for a Q&A with Swiss curator, Hans Ulrich Obrist. Condo’s process in how he approaches his work and how he currently see things in our world was enlightening. His latest canvases featured at Hauser & Wirth are according to the gallery, ‘filled with fragmented portraits and abstractions, suggesting a world of oppositional forces and states, at once connected and entropic, logical and ineffable, beautiful and ugly.’
The appropriately titled exhibition, “People Are Strange” draws from The Doors 1965 same titled song that appeared on the band’s second album, Strange Days. Condo listened to the song repeatedly while painting, which resulted in the song becoming stuck in his head. The “Stuck Song Syndrome” had an effect on him as he watched the news cycle featuring the divisive likes of Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and others. According to Condo, ‘In these (current) works, I put together the broken pieces and fragmented aspects of that division to intentionally point out the question: is it that people are strange or is it the politicians that are in fact strange, thus resulting in a maelstrom of dehumanized and disenchanted people, who as a result have become strange… even to themselves.’ Looking at Condo’s large-scale portraits, one can see how he captures the best and worst in a subject as well as the emotions we all go through with his “psychological cubism” style.
Since Condo has brought up politics in his discussions, can his latest works in an era of country’s divisive politics and culture wars be an inditement of who many Americans are? Sure, his subject matter can be interpreted in a variety of ways, but in this moment it resonates clearly in today’s America. In a nation where outlandish and dangerous political rhetoric is at an all time high, Condo focuses in on the individual psychological struggles that all of us deal with.
Condo was quite clear in his discussion at the gallery, he’s political. And, just as the news media helps protect our Democracy and keep the government in check, Condo and his contemporaries keep politicians and ourselves in check through their art. What is compelling about the relationship between an artist such as George Condo and Hauser & Wirth is the scale that the gallery brings to the table. Condo’s massive paintings and reputation certainly have impact when viewed in person. However, in today’s digitally enhanced media world where the news cycle changes by the minute, that scale is far greater through the effective dissemination of the artist’s work through Hauser & Wirth’s global brand and its media apparatus.
For more information about Hauser & Wirth, visit the gallery online. Hauser & Wirth in West Hollywood is located at 8980 Santa Monica Boulevard, 90069. Phone: (424) 404-1200. The gallery is open Tuesday - Saturday 11AM - 6PM.