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Robert Longo

Untitled (Janet, from the Men in the Cities Series) (1981/2016)

In the 1960s, Conceptualists dematerialized the art object, offering in its place the photograph (as material support). Certain among those to come up in the wake of that shift – e.g., Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and others associated with what came to be known as the Pictures Generation – metabolized this displacement, objectifying in pictorial form Conceptualism’s “non-art” image. In this, the distance between sign and signified gained a layer; referential and/or indexical images, in the hands of these younger artists, no longer pointed back to the original thing but to its mediation. Many Pictures Generation artists saw their work take on a life beyond the art world as their often highly mediagenic art was, in turn, appropriated by mass culture. Of the work affiliated with this discourse, Robert Longo’s monumental “Men in the Cities” drawings – inspired by a scene in Fassbinder’s experimental noir “The American Soldier,” wherein a character who is shot appears suspended in a sublime moment of violence. This series encapsulates the nihilistic affect of early ’80s No Wave, and later, the ruthless (professional) ambition that came to characterize that decade in general.

Here, Longo contributes to Texte zur Kunst’s edition program with a piece directly related to this series, distilling “Men in the Cities” (and the innumerable images it spawned) into a single photograph selected from the set he shot to produce the original drawings. The photo, featuring a friend of the artist, was taken on Longo’s roof around 1980, a newly deindustrialized Manhattan skyline defining the horizon line.

Photograph on Canson Platine fiber paper, image size: 37.4 × 25.4 cm, paper size: 45.7 × 35.6 cm, edition: 100 + 20 A.P., numbered and signed on the front, € 450.– plus shipping.