Robert Longo

Robert Longo was born in 1953 in Brooklyn and raised in Long Island, New York. His passion for art and social justice stemmed from a pivotal moment in 1970, the same year he graduated high school. The Kent State University Massacre, which saw students protesting against the US invasion of Cambodia, profoundly influenced him. A Pulitzer Prize-winning press photo from this event featured one of his former classmates, cementing Longo’s lifelong engagement with media images.

In 1972, Longo received a grant to study restoration and art history in Florence, Italy. Here, he decided to pursue creating art rather than preserving it. He embarked on his own “Grand Tour” of major European museums, studying both Old and Modern Masters. In 1973, Longo enrolled at the State University College in Buffalo, graduating in 1975. His time there was marked by mentorship under experimental filmmakers Paul Sharits and Hollis Frampton, who introduced him to structural filmmaking. Alongside Charles Clough, Longo co-founded Hallwalls, an exhibition space that became a crucial part of his artistic development.

In 1977, Longo moved to New York and worked as a studio assistant to Vito Acconci and Dennis Oppenheim. He participated in the seminal “Pictures” exhibition curated by Douglas Crimp, which marked a turning point away from Minimalism and Conceptualism towards image-making inspired by contemporary media. Over the next decade, Longo emerged as a leading figure in the “Pictures Generation,” creating works that critiqued capitalism, mediatized wars, and the cult of history in the US. His “Men in the Cities” drawings, presented at his first solo show at Metro Pictures in 1981, established his name in the art world.

Throughout the 1980s, Longo remained deeply involved in underground culture. He initiated performances, played in rock bands, contributed to alternative magazines, and designed stage sets. In the late 1980s, he ventured into commercial music videos and film, directing his first feature film, “Johnny Mnemonic,” in 1994-95.

In 1996, Longo returned to his studio practice, creating the “Magellan” series, a collection of 366 small drawings made daily from media images over a year. This series laid the groundwork for his ongoing exploration of media and its impact on society.

From 1999 to 2008, Longo focused exclusively on charcoal drawings in his “The Essentials” cycle. This body of work included series on waves, Freud’s consultation room, bombs, sharks, planets, nebulae, sleeping children, and roses. These works examined the collective unconscious and human reason.

From 2009 to 2014, Longo created “The Mysteries,” a speculative visual landscape exploring light, movement, and ancient archetypes. This series included images of Einstein’s chalkboard, a caged tiger, and a woman in a burka, reflecting contemporary life’s contradictions.

In 2014, Longo began “The Destroyer Cycle,” a series that visualizes power, protest, futility, destruction, and aggression through the lens of American media. This series addresses current affairs, environmental issues, and the long-term impact of human actions on nature.

In parallel, Longo has engaged with art history through works collectively called “Forensic Distance.” Since 2006, he has produced small graphite drawings of famous historical works (The Heritage Drawings) and monumental re-readings of iconic pieces like Picasso’s “Guernica.”

Robert Longo continues to live and work in New York. He is represented by Pace Gallery and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in London, Paris, Salzburg, and Seoul. His work remains a powerful critique of contemporary society, exploring the intersections of media, politics, and history.

Study for X-Ray of Rembrandt's Head of Christ c. 1655 (1A), 2014

Dragon’s Head, 2005


Hell’s Gate, 2005

The Box, 2005

The Ledge, 2005

Walk (Study)