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feAture john currin
john currin is embarrassed. His children can’t come to his studio by the studio much, either, Currin complains. And when she does it’s
to look at his paintings, and when his parents come to his exhibition always when he’s busy. “You see?”, he says when she announces that
openings they don’t want to comment on or discuss a number of she’s going to leave when I do. John’s going to suggest that maybe she
his recent works. It’s an awkward situation. Still, although he says he’s could hang around a bit longer. It’s their tenth wedding anniversary in
embarrassed, he doesn’t look particularly embarrassed about all this. two days’ time.
He’s not blushing, fidgeting, sweating or squirming in any way. He’s Still, even if he can’t show his latest work to his children or discuss
sitting in a chair, looking a bit tweedy, in the middle of his Tribeca it with his parents, Currin needn’t worry too much. Everyone else is
studio, sipping water in front of a large painting of a fleshy, curly-haired practically beating down his door to pay six-figure sums for it. Currin
strawberry blonde stroking a man’s erect penis (while he – the man is an artworld star. He’s had retrospectives at the MCA Chicago, the
in the painting, not Currin – reciprocates in kind). And he’s calmly Whitney and the Serpentine Gallery, been featured in Vogue, The New
talking about how this, and other similarly themed works are going to Yorker and numerous other magazines, and been the subject of a 365-
constitute his next solo show at Sadie Coles HQ, in London. There’s page, £85 catalogue of his works to date (well, to 2006), which have
a painting of three graces on the opposite wall. They’re all naked or in also been the inspiration for several fashion shoots, most recently in the
the process of allowing their clothes to fall off. But they’re not really like French magazine Paradis. And this last is either a little ironic, given that
Canova or Botticelli or Rubens. The central figure, her breasts popping Currin uses images culled from fashion magazines as subject matter,
out over a bright green bra, stares out of the canvas. Her cartoony yet another example of how contemporary culture represents society’s
face sports an engaging grin as though she’s posing for a gay (that’s most efficient model of recycling – like some closed circle of mutual
old-fashioned gay) society portrait. And indeed, the neo-Renaissance validation – or totally appropriate, given that Currin’s work is all about
drapery behind her looks like it came out of an eighteenth-century recycling imagery.
society portrait. The naked woman to her left is kissing her shoulder, Having graduated from Yale in 1986, the Colorado-born painter
the woman to her right (her yellow dress – an indication that this is a first came to prominence during the early 1990s, when he began
contemporary rather than classical scene – casually unzipped at the showing paintings that drew their subject matter from high school
back) sucks on her breast while having a good feel lower down. Next to yearbook photos (the female ones), emaciated middle-aged society
that, in a small unfinished canvas, a girl who looks like she’s fallen out of ladies and big-breasted, fun-loving Baywatch types. His contemporaries
a poster promoting Dawn of the Dead (and she’d be one of the dead, (Matthew Barney being the most often mentioned) were showing
not the living) is stretching her tongue acrobatically to explore a male installation, performance and new media art, so Currin stood out. Like a
friend’s mouth. Currin’s wife and sometime subject, the artist Rachel Neanderthal at a space convention. Really. Because as much as Currin
Feinstein, apologetic for having disturbed us, has just popped by to developed an old-fashioned approach to artmaking, he also suggested
take a nap upstairs. There’s construction work near her studio, so it’s too an old-fashioned approach to political correctness. He makes you feel
noisy to work (or nap) there at the moment. She doesn’t really come that he paints big boobs because he likes big boobs. And early on his >
With his contemporaries
showing installation,
performance and new
media art, Currin stood
out like a Neanderthal at
a space convention
Artreview 52
John Currin.indd 52 7/3/08 10:38:34
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