Robert Longo is More Than a Man in the City

All you ever wanted to know about the artist, in three minutes.


Multi-talented artist Robert Longo has always been fascinated by mass media.

While a student in Buffalo, he created a cooperative avant-garde gallery with his friends called the Essex Art Center, a refuge for up-and-coming artists (see Hallwalls Turns 40).

He joined the New York City underground art scene at the end of the 1970s, and was fascinated by Abstract Expressionism and it’s masculine underpinnings. “I started thinking of the Ab-Ex guys as my crew,”  he says in the video above.

Largely inspired by drawings, Longo created artworks exploring issues of gender, power, and mass media, using graphite-like clay, as seen in his well-known “Men in the Cities” series. “Moby Dick is like the genetic code of America,” he says. “Jackson Pollock’s dog was named Ahab.”

As cinema has always played an important role in his life, it’s not surprising that the idea of the series came from a still of The American Soldier, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and that one of his “men” was featured in the movie American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron.

In addition, he also created several album covers for different musicians and directed music videos, as well as the movie Johnny Mnemonic.

During the 1980s, he was one of the most exhibited and collected artists in the world.

His success has led to shows at international venues, including the Whitney Biennial in New York, Documenta in Kassel, the Venice Biennale, the Isetan Museum of Art in Tokyo, and the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain in Nice.

In the video above, artnet News spoke to the painter, sculptor, and draftsman to learn more about his life and work. Religion, American history, and his sources of inspiration—it’s all you ever wanted to know about Longo in one interview.

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