Despite being born in Brooklyn in 1953, Robert Longo’s practice couldn’t be farther to the traditional Pop Art movement that, at that time, was rising in the art scene; his artworks are predominantly black and white, and, with their methodical execution, depict the unbearable pressure of authority on society.
Arguably, the gun is the universal symbol of violence. Longo drew it pointing upwards, stretched towards the upper right corner, ready to be fired – or perhaps in the aftermath of firing a bullet, as it recoils.
In comparison to the artist’s œvre – presenting large scale artworks, executed with photo realistic precision – Gun, as a sketch for a larger drawing in the series Bodyhammer, shows Longo’s looser and more liberal use of charcoal, and the organic moment of creation.
The powder of charcoal, trod on the gun, falls over the white paper, staining it and creating a gunpowder-like cloud around the weapon – whereas the sketchy lines surrounding the gun echo a gunshot that’s already been fired.
The overall imprecision transcends the harmless drawing of the gun to showing its killing potential on paper. Longo, however, drew the subject on a small scale – restraining the power of the weapon and its impact as an icon of violence in mass media.