November 27, 2021

The Charcoal Reality: Robert Longo

By 1605 Publishers
Art, Inspiration

Robert Longo (b. 1953, United States) is an artist from Long Island, New York. He is famous for his hyperreal charcoal drawings focused on political topics, reason, intuition, fantasy, and power. He graduated high school in 1970, the same year as the Kent State University Massacre in Ohio, which started as a student protest against the United States invasion of Cambodia and led to nationwide uprisings, spurring Longo to become politically engaged. In 1972, Longo received a grant to study restoration and art history in Florence. where discovered that instead of preserving art, he wanted to create it.

"My earlier drawings were mostly graphite. The charcoals started in 1999 or 2000, kind of by accident. It was the Christmas vacation and I went to the studio and couldn’t find any graphite. Although I hated charcoal, this imprecise medium, I started to draw, and began on the first wave drawing. And there was something about charcoal." - from the interview with Joe Lloyd for Studio International.

Robert Longo charcoalRobert Longo: images on the collective unconscious

"I came of age as an artist during the age of Ronald Reagan, and Reagan was the original Trump. He said, "Let’s make America great again" first, and stupid things, like: "Let’s return America to traditional values." - from the interview with Joe Lloyd for Studio International.

Longo's most famous series of work is "Men in the Cities". These charcoal drawings helped to establish his name at his first solo show at Metro, in 1981. The gallery then premiered his Combines—wall-based works that were part sculpture, part relief, part painting—in 1984, which used Sergei Eisenstein’s theory of montage to juxtapose conflicting imagery.

His other famous series called "The Freud Cycle" depicts views of Sigmund Freud’s consultation room and apartment during the Nazi occupation of Vienna. Longo produced images of bombs, sharks, planets, nebula, sleeping children, and roses—images of what he calls “absolutes”—that together embody the collective unconscious.

Robert Longo Men in the Cities
Robert Longo: series "Men in the Cities"

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