ROBERT LONGO (1953 - ) Robert Longo was born in 1953 in Brooklyn, New York. He was raised on suburban Long Island where as a youth he participated in various arts activities from a very young age. Longo developed an early fascination with all forms of mass media; especially movies, television, magazines, and comic books. These hallmark influences are still incorporated into the art work that he is producing today.
Robert Longo's works are filled with deep emotions that are both primitive and at the same time self-conscious. One of the quintessential artists of the 1980s, Longo's "Men in the Cities" series portrays a group of sharply dressed businessmen writhing in contorted agony.
Robert Longo's art training and background are very diverse. His higher education began at the University of Northern Texas, in the rural town of Denton. Like so many other creative and ingenious people, Longo excelled in several different art forms. After a break from university life, Longo began studying sculpture under the guidance of Leonda Finke, who encouraged the young artist to pursue a career in the visual arts. In 1972, Longo received a grant to study at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, Italy. Upon his return to New York, Longo enrolled at the State University College in Buffalo where he received a BFA in 1975. In college, Longo and a group of his friends established an avant-garde art gallery in their co-op building, which was originally a converted ice factory. Through his gallery efforts, Longo was introduced to many local and New York City artists. Eventually Longo moved to New York City and immersed himself in the underground art scene of the seventies.
Although he studied sculpture, drawing remained Longo's favorite form of self- expression. However, the sculptural influence pervades his drawing technique, as Longo's "portraits" have a distinctive chiseled line that seems to give the drawings a three dimensional quality, Longo uses graphite like clay. He molds it to create images like the writhing, dancing figures in his seminal 'Men in the Cities" series.
The artist has been the subject of major retrospective exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1989 and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 1990. Well into the next century, Longo will continue to be one of the most highly regarded living contemporary artists and print makers working in the international art market.
In order to create works such as Barbara and Ralph, Longo first projects photographs of his subjects onto paper and traces the figures in graphite, stripping away all details of the background. After he records the basic contours, his assistant, Diane Shea, continues work on the figure for about a week, filling in the details. Next, Longo goes back into the drawing, using a combination of graphite and charcoal, to provide as he says, "all the cosmetic work." At this point, he makes a number of changes in the figure. Some are subtle: just a little more definition to a shoulder, perhaps, or a darker cast to the shoes. Others are radical: a subject, who in the original photo was wearing jeans, may finally sport a pair of formal black trousers in the drawing. Longo continues to work on the drawing making numerous adjustments until, about a week later, it is completed.
The process of making a lithograph is equally involved. Studio assistants do much of the basic work. Though his use of assistants has on occasion been controversial, the practice has several precedents, from the old masters with their workshop minions to the minimalists whose creations involve the talents of industrial fabricators.
Few artists have enjoyed the international visibility of Robert Longo and fewer still have generated as much thought -provoking commentary about their own art and about the state of contemporary culture at large. His original art is immediately recognizable by many who have seen only few examples of it.