Artist: Robert Longo (American, b.1953)

Work Date : 2009

Category: MEN IN THE CITIES, 1979

Style: The Great Hall The Metropolitan Museum of Art New

Robert Longo

Narrative Bio

Robert Longo

Born 1953, Brooklyn, New York

B.F.A., State University College, Buffalo, New York, 1975

Lives and works in New York


"My work exists somewhere between movies and monuments." Robert Longo


Robert Longo's works are typically brash and eye-catching. They take the power of the photographic or filmic image and marry it to large-scale artworks that often escape categorization as strictly painting, sculpture, or media art. Longo's project as a visual artist involves the exploration of the importance of images in popular culture, and the investigation of stereotypical depictions of the individual's alienation within a complex society. His aesthetic and conceptual approach came to symbolize the changing New York City landscape of the 1980s with its rapid gentrification, vibrant nightlife, and ascendant stock market.


Central to the mood of Longo's pictures is the depiction of violent physicality and psychological angst motivated by an undefined source left to the viewer's speculation. His most famous series,       Men in Cities , are large charcoal and graphite drawings of well dressed business men and women between moments of confinement and release. These works have become metaphors for the success and money driven “yuppie culture” of the 1980s. One work from the series, the Broad Personal Collection’s      Untitled (Men in the Cities: Ellen) , 1981 shows a young woman in just such a moment of ambiguity, in a full and purposeful gesture but ultimately unmoored to any sort of definition outside of her stylish, strapped heels, her proper blouse, and designer skirt.


Longo’s drawings, his most famous works, gradually became larger, more ambitious, and including of many types of media including cast aluminum relief sculptures. In       Tongue to the Heart , 1984 a central lead panel relief features an imposing, empty corridor. To its left is a slightly smaller-than-life-size sculptural figure who clamps his hands to his ears as if experiencing agony. These elements are flanked below by an image of crashing yellow waves and a large, red, mask-shaped image of eyes staring out and upward, floating disembodied on a black ground. As with his drawings, Longo presents a psychological scene of confinement and anxiety in this work that hints at an unattainable transcendence that ultimately will remain allusive and constantly threatened.


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