Robert Longo - Raphael
American, b.1953
Raphael, 1998
Lithograph, 46 x 30 inches
BAT (from an edition of 120)
Wolfryd - Selway Fine Art

Gift of Judy and J.D. Williamson II (BBA '67, MBA '68)

Robert Longo belongs to a generation of artists that was recognized in the 1980s for the expressive return of the human figure after a period dominated by abstraction and conceptual art. The figure personalized and emotionalized the work of art. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Longo had a childhood fascination with mass media: movies, television, magazines, and comic books, which continue to influence his art.

Longo’s lithographs in the UMBS collection have their basis in a number of large black-and-white charcoal drawings that the artist made between 1979 and 1982. They comprised a series entitled Men in the Cities. Both drawings and the later prints derive from photographs that Longo made of people dressed in sober business clothes. They are frozen in ambiguous poses suggesting agony or ecstasy, dying or club dancing. Although the lithographic portraits followed the charcoal drawings at a later date, their meanings are rooted in a critique of a prosperous Wall Street culture of the 1980s, in which phenomenal wealth could easily be made, for example, by young MBA’s early in their careers. Despite the upturns and downturns of the American economy since the 1980s, Longo’s ironic commentary on American drive and success is still valid for many viewers.