George Condo's Jesters Opens Today at Gallery Met

George Condo's Jesters Opens Today at Gallery Met

Today, January 28, the Arnold & Marie Schwartz Gallery Met will open George Condo'sJesters, presented in conjunction with the new Metropolitan Opera production of Rigoletto. Condo has created 9 original ink-on-paper drawings of jesters for the show, which will be on display through May 11. The Met's new production of Rigoletto, Verdi's opera about a court jester whose life unravels after his insults go too far, will premiere today, January 28.

Condo has been a major figure in the contemporary art world for more than 30 years. His paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints have come to define the genre known as "artificial realism," which juxtaposes the traditional techniques of painting with a realist's view of the man-made world we live in today. Holland Cotter of The New York Times praised the 2011 New Museum retrospective of Condo's work as "a tour-de-force of stylistic multitasking and figurative variety...within the world of Mr. Condo's portraits, nothing is 'just' anything."

Jesters will be Condo's first solo show at Gallery Met, though he has contributed well-received works to two previous group exhibitions. His painting of Rosina from IL Barbiere di Siviglia was part of Heroines, the gallery's inaugural show, and he also contributed a painting to 2009'sSomething About Mary, a series of portraits of Mary Magdalene presented in conjunction with a new Met production of Tosca.

"I've been painting clowns since 1985-my favorite archetypal American hero-loser," Condo said of Jesters. "The jester has to entertain you and at the same time repel you. He has a multiplicity of qualities, and I thought that would give me a great opportunity to work with different planes that recede and come forward architecturally, like the planes and perspectives within a single portrait."

Condo has created a large banner, based on the "Jester 9" drawing from the show, which will hang on the Met façade through mid-February. He has previously designed banners in conjunction with the Met's productions of Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment and the Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island.

Dodie Kazanjian, curator of Gallery Met since it opened its doors in 2006, thought Condo would be the perfect artist for a show tied toRigoletto, with its central, tragic jester.

"George is one of those rare artists whose work is infused with disturbing humor-he cuts deep while making us laugh," Kazanjian said.

Gallery Met, located in the south lobby of the opera house, is open to the public Mondays through Fridays from 6 p.m. to the end of the last intermission and Saturdays from noon to the end of the evening performance's last intermission. Admission is free and no appointments are required. Gallery Met is closed on Sundays.

Rigoletto premieres January 28 in a new production conducted by Michele Mariotti and directed by Michael Mayer in his Met debut. The cast includes Željko Lu?i? as Rigoletto, Diana Damrau as Gilda, Piotr Beczala as the Duke, Oksana Volkova in her Met debut as Maddalena, and Štefan Kocán as Sparafucile. Mayer's staging moves the opera's tragic events from a decadent 16th-century Italian court to the glitzy, depraved setting of the Las Vegas strip circa 1960.

For more information on the Met's contemporary visual arts initiatives, which are organized by Dodie Kazanjian, visit www.metopera.org/gallerymet.

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