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Robert Longo was born in Brooklyn, New York City in 1953. The versatile artist is active in a wide variety of media: as a painter, draftsman, sculptor and photographer. Even as a director of music videos. From 1971 on Robert Longo took art lessons with the sculptor Leonda Finke, before travelling to Florence in 1972 on a scholarship to study art history and restoration at the Accademia di Belle Arti. Back in New York, Longo enrolled at the Art School of Buffalo State College and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1975. Quite a child of his time, he is influenced by the 1970s, the upheavals, crises, technical achievements, film and music, advertising icons, happenings and performance art. He processes the wealth of these impressions and the flood of images that fall upon him in his works. They often reflect a contrast between movement and tempo on the one hand and silence and stillness on the other.
“Men in the Cities”, one of his best-known series, makes this very contrast clearly visible: men and women who seem to be somehow dancing, sometimes falling, but at the same time frozen in the midst of movement, very much like a film still. His own photographs serve him as a model for his often large-format charcoal drawings, which are nevertheless characterized by an impressive attention to detail, and which he also regularly uses as graphics.
Longo captures not only people, but also ephemeral motifs from nature in his works. An outstanding example are the waves from the series “Monsters”, which in reality only last a fraction of a second and are captured here in charcoal, a material that takes forever to form and decay again.
His large-format works are characterized not only by contrasts in content, but also in form, which prevent a drift into the purely decorative. Individual details stand out in sharp focus, his pictures convince through their successful transformation of the material and the tactile, making them look like photographs – a testimony to the underlying perfection of craftsmanship.
Robert Longo, who is considered one of the most important graphic artists of the present day, always remains true to two aspects of his work: pieces in black and white – in his opinion the best way to convey truth in the image – and his preferred medium, charcoal drawing.