It simply cannot be disputed that Robert Longo‘s mastery of the medium of drawing is unmatched and he should rightly be considered one of the most accomplished artists to ever use drawing materials on paper to represent the world.
His newest body of work opened last week in Paris at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Titled “God Machines“, this major installation offers three heroically scaled charcoal drawings, each dedicated to one of three major monotheistic world religions. Mecca in Saudi Arabia, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem are each presented in ridiculously high definition hand-drawn renderings on multi-panel mounted sheets that tower over visitors to the main gallery space.
The importance of the iconic sacred places of Islam, Christianity and Judaism are reflected in the sheer scale of these monumental drawings. Longo exploits his mastery of techniques from the Old Masters such as chiaroscuro lighting with ultimate grandeur. The resulting works achieve an extreme emotional range.
It is impossible to consider these works outside of the charged geopolitical climate of our nascent millennium yet these pieces are also very personal and highly psychological; viewers bring their own religious, a-religious or anti-religious biases to any direct experience of these epic drawings. They are massive documents of places that have both historical and contemporary meaning, the sources of so much social good, spiritual release, and militaristic evil.
Born in Brooklyn in 1953, Longo received a BFA from Buffalo State College in 1975 and now lives in New York City. He first gained international recognition in the early 1980s for his series “Men in the Cities” and his work has since been the subject of exhibitions at important institutions around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Albertina in Vienna, the Tate in London, and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. In 2005 he was the recipient of the prestigious Goslar Kaiser Ring in Germany. Crashing waves and exploding atomic bombs have been a focus of his work over the past ten years but with “God Machines” Longo has turned decidedly towards the heavenly.
By Randy Gladman for The Ministry of Artistic Affairs.