Robert Longo is an American artist best known for his photorealistic drawings, particular his iconic 1983 series Men in the Cities, later reprised as photographs. Longo works and reworks his charcoal into thick-textured surfaces, giving his velvety drawings deep, blackened expanses.
Men in the Cities renders businessmen and women in a state of suspended animation, and brought the artist critical acclaim in the early 1980s. He said “I always imagine that I want to make art that is going to kill you,” he said in 1984. “Whether it’s going to do it visually or physically, I’ll take either way.”
Having been fascinated with popular culture as a child, Longo centres his practice on transposing images and the resulting transformation of meaning, links him with the Pictures Generation. “An artist should know art history,” he says. “Shock value only lasts so long.” His recent works have included series depicting women in burkas, ocean waves, nuclear explosions, views of Sigmund Freud’s apartment, and zoo animals in cages.
He has gone on to have his work shown at the 1983 and 2004 Whitney Biennials in New York and the 47th Venice Biennale. The artist’s works are held in the collections of the Albertina in Vienna, the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, among others.