Biography of Robert Longo
Robert Longo exploded onto the scene in the 1980s with his Men in the Cities series, charcoal drawings in which he depicts his well-dressed friends collapsing forward, contorted in raw emotion. Since then he has become renowned for his ability to depict profound psychological states in a photorealist style, creating works of dramatic tension, harnessed between visual exuberance and political disillusionment.
Robert Longo is also a sculptor, but is perhaps best known for his charcoal, ink and graphite drawings which he elevates to the scale of enormous paintings. This had never been seen before, and his ability to combine the intimate practice of drawing with the monumental scale of painting has won him plaudits the world over. Born in 1953 in Brooklyn in New York, Robert Longo studied for many years at the University of North Texas although he would never complete his degree. Instead he returned to New York where he became a central player in the underground scene of the 1970s.
Robert Longo is adept at using chiaroscuro, the extreme use of light and dark as material to produce a heightened and intense emotionality. His works are often characterized by deep, velvety black expanses. His drawing process often involves projecting a photo sized image through a projector to make it many times bigger before working in the fine details. Intriguingly his work on close inspection is highly abstract even though it is photographically based. Robert Longo’s works over the last few years have been increasingly political in subject matter, seeing him depict women in burkas, nuclear explosions and make sculptures out of bullets to commemorate the number of gun deaths in America.
Robert Longo’s famous series Monsters—drawings of the monumental waves on the cusp of breaking—was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. He has designed music album covers and directed music videos including R.E.M.’s The One I Love and the artist is also the director of Jonny Mnemonic, a cyberpunk movie with Keanu Reeves in the lead role. Roberto Longo has been honored with retrospectives at the Hamburger Kunstverein, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1989, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 1990 and the Musée D’Art Moderne Et D’Art Contemporain de Nice in France in 2009. Recent exhibitions of his work have been held at The Brooklyn Museum in New York and Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow. As well as the Whitney Biennial he has also participated in documenta and the Venice Biennale. His work is regularly hits the million-dollar mark when put up for auction.