Biography of Robert Longo
Robert Longo exploded onto the scene in the 1980s with his Men in the Cities series, which depicted well-dressed friends of the artist collapsing forward, contorted in raw emotion. Since then he has become renowned for his ability to depict profound psychological states, creating works of dramatic tension, harnessed between their visual exuberance and political disillusionment.
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, 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.
Longo is adept at using chiaroscuro, the extreme use of light and dark as material to produce a heightened and intense emotionality. 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.
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. 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. As well as the Whitney Biennial he has also participated in documenta and the Venice Biennale. His work is now regularly hitting the million-dollar mark when put up for auction.