Robert Longo (b. 1953) is an artist, filmmaker, and musician, best known for his photo-realistic drawings and works on paper that examine the role of politics and power in our society. He gained prominence in the 1980s for his Men in the Cities series, which depicts sharply dressed businessmen and women in contorted poses, referencing agony or ecstasy. Considered significant American prints, this series of lithographs, taken from drawings based off photographs, are silhouetted against a stark white background. The Men in the Cities lithgraphs began in 1982, based off Longo’s charcoal drawings of the same name. The imagery was inspired by a scene from Rainer Werner Fasbinder’s “The American Soldier,” where two gangsters look as if they’re “dancing” toward their death. Appropriating the scene, Longo took photographs of his friends dressed in power suits on the rooftop of his studio, while throwing tennis balls at them. The resulting movements are lyrical and free-falling in contrast to the clothing indicative of 1980s America and corporate culture. The drawings, which have a cinematic quality, were exhibted at Documenta 7 in 1982 and later at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009 as part of “The Picture Generation” exhibition.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Longo was recognized at a young age for his talent, and received a grant to study at the Accademia di Belle Arte in Florence, Italy, in 1972. He received his BFA from Buffalo State University in 1975, and subsequently moved to New York City to become part of the infamous downtown art and music scene. In 1974, Longo co-founded Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, NY with a group of young visual artists, including Cindy Sherman.
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. Major group exhibitions include Documenta in 1987 and 1982; the Whitney Biennial in 1983 and 2004; and the Venice Biennale in 1997. His work is represented in collections of Albertina, Vienna; The Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Guggenheim Museum, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and Whitney Museum of American Art, NY. Longo was the recipient of the Goslar Kaiserring in 2005.