Eric and Ellen

Robert Longo

Eric and Ellen , 1999

70.0 x 40.0 Inches
Two lithographs in tones of black, on arches cover paper, with full margins
Edition of 50
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Signed, dated '99,' and numbered

About the artwork

Eric and Ellen comes from Longo's “Men in the Cities” series, a collection of lithographs completed in 1999. In both of the black and white works of art, the subjects, Eric and Ellen, are turned away from the camera, lending the subjects anonymity. In Ellen, the subject’s right foot is daintily pointed forward, but her arms are flung up as if in defense of something from above. In the lithograph of Eric, the subject’s position is more open, as if in the midst of a dance move. However, while his body is faced towards the camera, his face is flung to the side as he leans backwards, and his feet twist in toward one another. The figures' clothes are the key factor that mark them as a business man and woman. There is an ambiguity in the works, as it is unclear whether the figures are dancing or writhing in pain. Eric and Ellen illustrate the growing tension between the burgeoning “yuppie” culture of the 1980s and urban spirit of New York City.

About the artist

Robert Longo

Robert Longo, born 1953 in Brooklyn, New York, is an American artist, filmmaker, and photographer. He received his BFA in Sculpture from Buffalo State College in 1975.

Despite the fact that he studied sculpture, Longo broke out onto the New York art scene with his iconic “Men in the Cities” series in 1983, huge charcoal drawings of businessmen contorted into writhing, almost dance-like poses that became symbols for the changing nature of New York City in the 1980s with gentrification by those who were money and power hungry. He manipulates charcoal with a sculptural quality, side stepping categorization between strictly painting, sculpture, or photography. He has stated that he believes drawing to be a sculptural process, carving his subjects out of the paper with erasers and charcoal. His large-scale artworks explore the power of photographic and filmic images in popular culture. Longo’s work is a meditation on the images we see over and over again on a daily basis, oftentimes drawing inspiration from sources that deal with socio-political issues. 

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