Robert Longo

Artist Research for Docent Reference

          Docent Researcher: Susan Palmore


Artist: Robert Longo



Birth date: 1953 in Brooklyn, New York

Current residence: New York City

Education:University of North Texas; Accademia de Belle Arti, Florence, Italy; Buffalo State College, BFA Sculpture 1975

Employment: Artist


Major Shows/Gallerie

Longo has had retrospective exhibitions at the Hamburger Kunstverein and Deichtorhallen; the Menil Collection in Houston; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; the Hartford Athenaeum and the Isetan Museum of Art in Tokyo. Group exhibitions include Documenta (1987 and 1982); the Whitney Biennial (2004 and 1983); and the Venice Biennale (1997.) His work is represented in collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; the Albertina in Vienna; and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. Robert Longo was the recipient of the Goslar Kaiserring in 2005. Robert Longo is represented by Metro Pictures in New York City and Galerie Hans Mayer in Düsseldorf, Germany. He is a co-founder and member of the band X PATSYS (with Barbara Sukowa, Jon Kessler, Anthony Coleman, Anton Fier and Sean Conly).




Longo is a painter, sculptor, and has also created a number of videos.  Drawing is his favorite form of expression, but it is influenced by his sculptural experience, giving his drawings, particularly his figurative drawings, a three-dimensional sculptural quality.


For his large figurative works, he initially projects photographs of his subjects on paper, then traces the figures in graphite, removing all background details.  His long-term illustrator, Diane Shea then fills in the details of the figures.  Longo then provides the “cosmetic work” using graphite and charcoal to make numerous adjustments.




Contextual information

Influences (historical/personal/political): Longo had an early fascination with mass media, including movies, television, magazines and comic books and these continue to influence his work today. He has also made a number of videos. He studied with the sculptor, Leonida Finke after leaving Texas, and this experience is evident in his drawings. While in Buffalo, he was associated with the artist Cindy Sherman and studied under art professor Joseph Piccillo.


Expressive Qualities: Longo's works span a broad range but he is perhaps best known for his figurative work, which is evident in all the medias in which he works.

Subject Matter/ Themes: Longo famous for his 1980s series, “Men in the Cities,” which depicted sharply dressed businessmen writhing and dancing  in contorted emotion.  He has worked on a number of themes related to power and authority, including his series on American flags (1989-1991), Bodyhammers depicting oversized handguns (1993-1995), “Monsters” depicting massive breaking waves in Bernini-esque style (2002 and 2004) and “”The Sickness of Reason,” baroque renderings of atomic bomb blasts. 

Other Comments/ Information:Longo's work appears to draw from numerous interests and experiences, including mass media, music, his studies in Italy and the United States, and current social and political issues. Even while studying in college in Buffalo he was interested in avant garde art, establishing an art gallery with friends in their New York City coop building.  This gallery became the  Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center.

He married the German actress Barbara Sukow in 1994 and they have three sons. 


Anecdotal Information and Quotes

In addition to his art career, Longo has been active in the music scene, and in the 1970s was the leader and guitarist in a punk musical act called Robert Longo's Menthol Wars and performed with the Rhys Chatham's Guitar Trio, also producing the slides entitled, “Pictures for Music” which played behind the musicians.  He is a co-founder and member of the band X PATSYS (with Barbara Sukowa, Jon Kessler, Anthony Coleman, Anton Fier and Sean Conly).


In the 1980s and early 199s, Longo developed performance art pieces, and developed several cyberpunk movies and music videos. At this time, Longo was quoted as saying, “ making a painting is one thing but making a film kicks your ass.”


In an interview with Richard Price, Longo said, “I think I make art for brave eyes. I don't want to make art that will pat you on the back and tell you everything is going to be okay. I want to make something that's much more confronting. You don't look at it, it looks at you as much as you look at it....


Drawing when I was a kid was an escape for me, and now as an adult it's a profession. I always draw. I've always drawn. I love the line that comes from the hand, it's real power. Now my favorite kinds of drawings are the sketches I make to plan the works from. They're the most personal. I got a B.F.A. in sculpture, which was the closest thing in the college catalogue to a drawing degree. I was never inclined to painting, it seemed too messy, too slow. I also have a major in art history, those are my weapons. My drawings are like sculptures, when I draw with graphite I smud(g)e it with my fingers, move it around physically, it's like clay. Painting is painting on the surface, covering up, where drawing is putting the picture into the paper like a photograph.” Robert Longo in interview with Richard Price, Robert Longo: Men in the Cities, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, p.94-100.  





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3.  ^ "Long Playing". Barbara Krakow Gallery. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 

4.  ^ Steve Dollar (2007-11-16). "Sukowa Plays the Role of Singer". New York Sun. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 

5.  Robert Longo: Men in the Cities, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, p.94-100.  


·    Peter R. Kalb (January 2003). "Robert Longo at Metro Pictures - New York - "Monsters" drawing exhibition". Art in America

·    Experimental TV Center Video History Project. "Hallwalls (1974-Present)".