Artist's Notebook

Ideas and Influences: Jim Condron

Jim Condron, Lucy Sante’s Things, 2022, oil, vintage fire cracker, vintage writing slate, coaster, 
vintage, typewriter keyboard, cotton, oil, wood, 12 x 19.5 x 5.5 inches

In addition to his regular practice of solitary drawing, painting, and sculpture, Jim Condron is working on a project that involves an array of other artists, writers, and thinkers. He has asked each to contribute five to seven objects – ether personal items or ephemeral materials – which he has made into separate sculptures, each composed of the objects contributed by one person. The sculptures are on display in “Collected Things,” a solo exhibition at Art Cake, through June 24. On the occasion of this charming and poignant show, Two Coats of Paint invited Condron to share some of the objects, artists, and ideas that inform his work.

1. Philip Guston, Zone:  When I was younger, I was obsessed with paintings like Zone and loved the space and atmosphere.  I entered the painting the same way I did when looking at Monet’s monumental Water Lilies at MoMA, as if being enveloped by a fog. 

Philip Guston, Zone, 1953-54, oil on canvas, 46 x 48 inches

2. Philip Guston, Cellar:  Grace Hartigan gave me a reproduction of this painting when I was in graduate school and, over the years, it has become more and more influential. I feel about Guston’s color the way I feel about Alice Neel’s – jealous.   Somehow Guston and Neel manage to make colors glow and pop, and I don’t think it has to do with juxtaposition or amount or opacity. I think it has to do with will. 

Philip Guston, Cellar, 1970, oil on canvas, 78 x 110 inches

3. Alice Neel, Hartley. Speaking of Alice Neel, this painting was one of my first loves. Seeing it as an undergraduate student made me realize for the first time that browns, greys, and khaki were colors. I also learned that unpainted canvas could be active. Absence was a foil for richness, and it could also be rich in itself.

Alice Neel, 1966, oil on canvas, 50 x 36 inches

4. Bill Traylor:  With great efficiency, Bill Traylor tells a powerful and specific story with the simplest of means. His work is painful, funny, humble, and brilliantly transcendent. I strive for similar expressiveness.

Bill Traylor

5. REM, Fables of the Reconstruction: Also known as Reconstruction of the Fables. I have listened to this album off and on since it came out in 1985. It is difficult to try to unpack specifics of something so big that it seems both about a place and time in history, and a fraught relationship. It’s enigmatic and purposely abstract, but specific in its mood and color.

REM, Reconstruction of the Fables, 1985
REM, Reconstruction of the Fables, 1985, cover artwork

6. Shoes: I have a big collection of dress shoes. My first pair – black, split-toe derbies – was a gift from my father before I began my job at an investment bank. I still have and love them. Of the many things I collect, I can wear these, though infrequently. 

7. Socks: They are related to shoes. Socks are markers of time, events, relationships.  They also wear out and can be replenished. My socks are like paint to me. I wear them and use them, as well as other people’s socks, in my work. 

8. Cezanne: he is an artist I didn’t really like but knew I loved. Every time I have been lost in my work, I go look at Cezanne and I find my way. I have studied his Still Life with Milk Jug and Fruit intensely at various points in my life. I think I understand how it is constructed now, but I am still pondering how something so abstract and distorted can be so “real.” 

Paul Cezanne, Still Life With Milk Jug and Fruit, 1900, oil on canvas, 18 1/16 x 21 5/8 inches

9. Graham Nickson’s Turtle Bathers: Orange Chevron. Nickson originally painted this monumental work in black and white. Sometime just before it was due to be installed at a recent show at Betty Cuningham Gallery, he decided to repaint the entire thing in color. This move is quintessential Nickson and speaks to the qualities I admire in artmaking. Something isn’t done until one feels it and the feeling can change, even right before a deadline and regardless of the complexity of the imagery and color, which in this case underwent drastic changes in the reworking.

Graham Nickson, Turtle Bathers: Orange Chevron, 2002/2022, acrylic on primed linen, 120 x 240 inches

10. The Big Short: I frequently rewatch the entire movie and even more frequently revisit specific scenes. My fascination is multifaceted.  Every character is complicated, and both caricaturish and real. Many of the characters actually feel badly about what they are doing even as they are doing it. The intricacy of the financial instruments has also been an obsession of mine since I had to study for the Series 7 for my job. Greed is endlessly and morbidly interesting.

The Big Short (dir. by Adam McKay), 2015
Art Cake: Jim Condron, Collected Things, 2023, Installation View

“Jim Condron: Collected Things,” Art Cake, 214 40th Street, Brooklyn, New York. Through June 24, 2023. Objects were contributed by Doreen Bolger, Maud Bryt, Sharon Butler, David Cohen, Lisa Corinne Davis, Robert Flynn Johnson, Glenn Goldberg, Grace Hartigan, Elizabeth Hazan, Carl E. Hazlewood, Rebecca Hoffberger, Ann Landi, Sangram Majumdar, Michael Marlais, Graham Nickson, Ben Pritchard, Cordy Ryman, Lucy Sante, Joyce J. Scott, Jo Smail, Rex Stevens, Ken Tisa, Karen Wilkin, and Etty Yaniv. 

Note: On the last day of the show, Saturday, June 17, there will be a conversation between art critic David Cohen and Jim Condron, 5 – 7 pm, during Art Cake’s Summer Open House Party that runs from 12–7 PM.

Related posts:
Ideas and Influences: Louise Belcourt
Ideas and Influences: Björn Meyer-Ebrecht
Ideas and influences: Mike Cloud
Ideas and Influences: Erika Ranee


  1. Congrats, Jim! I am always happy when I see you getting more press attention. You deserve it.

  2. Hi Jim. I am so sorry I could not make your show or your talk on Brooklyn Rail. I moved sooner than I thought I would (beacon) and now I am in Maine. Let me know when you are having a show at Searsport. I hope all has gone well for you. The work looks great!
    All the best,

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