American painter, sculptor, and film-maker, born in Brooklyn, New York. His work was first noted when it was selected for the 1977 ‘Pictures’ exhibition in New York (see appropriation). Like other artists in the exhibition, he used recognizable images but taken from the mass media rather than from life. In the 1980s his images of men in business suits, photographically rendered in charcoal against a white background, the Men in Cities series, tumbling like fallen shooting victims in a gangster film, made him among the most successful artists in New York. Some political comment was detected in his work, as in Sword of the Pig (1983), in which a muscled male torso, headless but with conspicuous penis, is juxtaposed with a missile silo. He recalled later ‘I wanted to take an aggressive position in a culture that I thought was sick.’ Later work has been criticized for a lack of development. Daniel Kunitz (New Criterion, December 1999) found in his recent pieces ‘a distinctly eighties idea of corporate heroism’. Since 2000 he has made work addressing the expulsion of Freud from Vienna by the Nazis and returned to the theme of nuclear war. Longo has also made sculpture reminiscent of science fiction monsters and directed a commercial feature film, Johnny Mnemonic (1995).
‘Robert Longo talks to Mary Haas’, Artforum International (March 2003)