John Currin


Painter said...

John Currin @
Gagosian Gallery
980 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021

hlowe said...

JC: "The subject of a painting is always the author, the artist. You can only make an illusion that it's about something other than that. I think that's what the function of representation is: to give a painting the illusion of a subject."
I disagree with this premise--can't relate to it.

zipthwung said...

mcluhan invented the medium

hey if you cant see yourself seeing yourself, you are not not a vampire.

what causes turbulence?

oh hey, i dont have an oppinion on currin. Is that bad?

zipthwung said...

i dont have any opinions anymore. maybe.

exu said...

I wish a turkey were involved..


From Nov. 12, 1999

Andrea Rosen Gallery
525 West 24th Street, Chelsea
Through Dec. 4

John Currin's show includes eight paintings that make clear, first of all, the physical engagement he has with paint. Mr. Currin wants to stress the formal side of his ambition. The images also convey how jaw-droppingly, unavoidably weird his art has become, and this combination of strangeness and technical refinement is the crux of Mr. Currin's work.

He paints naked women mostly: not the giant-breasted ones he used to paint but grapefruit-breasted, slender-waisted, long-legged, round-bellied, flaxen-haired women whose anatomical impossibilities derive from Cranach but whose modernity brings to mind Calvin Klein advertisements and Vargas pinups.

Desire, male and otherwise, is still a big factor. Mr. Currin mixes leering, lightheaded kitsch with old-masterish weight as if there were no distinction, a dizzying feat that makes every picture seem wholesome and evil at the same time.

This is true even in pictures that aren't nudes, like ''Homemade Pasta,'' a kitchen scene of two puffy, rubber-faced men and their pasta maker. Mr. Currin lavishes attention on the neat checkerboard pattern of one man's apron the way he does on the pink cream of the birthday cake in another painting, ''Birthday.'' The cake is set before a woman whose pearl earrings and crystal wineglass create the impression, as ''Homemade Pasta'' does, of bourgeois comfort fastidiously represented and mocked. MICHAEL KIMMELMAN

painterdog said...

ok now he is doing porn pictures.

by the way if anyone is interested the figure on the right(the second image at Gagosian's site) the arm is impossable.

Bad drawing, bad painting.


Published: November 21, 2003

ART REVIEW; With Barbed Wit Aforethought

JOHN CURRIN, whose reputation, cooking in art circles for years, has lately boiled over into the larger public world, can put you off and turn you on at the same time. You see the arc of his progress in the much-anticipated mid-career survey now at the Whitney Museum, which has arrived by way of Chicago and London, where it caused a predictable fuss. Don't miss it, if possible. It's riveting.

Mr. Currin is among other things a latter-day Jeff Koons, trafficking in lowdown humor, heartless kitsch and ironic smut, while offering up dollops of finesse, beauty and brains. The combination is disorienting and, at its best, thrilling. People split over his art, usually a good sign. The bottom line is that he can paint well -- better and better over the last decade -- in a suave and malevolent vein, which no doubt looks more striking because fashionable painters these days tend to lack his basic old-fashioned skills.

That his work goes from good to awful and back again, sometimes on purpose, is a measure of his age (41) and of his calculated ambition. Balthus, to censorious Americans the Humbert Humbert of the art world, made his reputation in 1934 with ''The Guitar Lesson'': a naked girl draped over the knees of a bare-breasted woman, the figures' postures mimicking a Pietà from the Louvre. The link, by its blasphemy, heightened the intended shock and put Balthus on the map. Mr. Currin has a similar goal but slightly different strategy.

The show begins with a painting from 1989, after a photograph from a high school yearbook, of a blonde named Mary O'Connel, unsmiling, pinched, an embalming in paint of this familiar brand of middlebrow institutional portraiture. Mr. Currin is not the first to recognize the cheap pathos that is in these vacant, ritual images, as there also is in magazine advertisements and pornography. But he nails the fake sentiments better than most.

Mary O'Connel's eyes, flat disks, are the emotional vortex of the picture. Eyes in Mr. Currin's work tend to be black holes, sucking up light. All of his scrubbed, fair-skinned subjects beam on the outside, whether they are skinny wives giddily puffing cigars in ''Stamford After-Brunch'' or the wan, waxen blonde preening in ''Park City Grill'' before her alarming date -- but the eyes make them look vacuous or desperate.

Mr. Currin has said that Gerhard Richter is the painter to beat. Mr. Richter's paintings of young nurses copied from yearbook pictures come to mind. So does his pose of radical conservatism; his attention-grabbing device of gleaning material from pornography; his self-admitted careerism; his style-shifting strategies and embrace of bad painting, not to mention his predilection for second-hand images culled from photographs mixed up with art historical quotations.

Mr. Currin, however, is a comparatively lightweight jokester and dweller on surface details. His work leaves you alert to the affectations that pass for civil discourse in well-heeled circles. He is a parodist of suburban social deceits who has invented his own funny, freakish race of people with variously disproportioned bodies, and heads that are much too big or small.

He came onto the scene during the heyday of political correctness as a contrarian, using the discredited (in fashionable circles) medium of painting to make not only weirdly arresting portraits like ''Mary O'Connel,'' based on campy and debased subjects, but also pictures of middle-aged women and of pin-up models with preposterous breasts -- supposedly no-no subjects for men. ''Boycott this show,'' wrote Kim Levin in The Village Voice about his solo debut at the Andrea Rosen Gallery in 1992. Mr. Currin hit a bull's-eye.

Those middle-aged women are not objects of mockery, as it happens, but memorable in their proud desperation to keep up appearances, and dignified in the case of the actress Bea Arthur bare-breasted. The women are painted against blank backdrops. The flat, precise, linear style recalls Otto Dix or Christian Schad, with intimations of Holbein and Dürer. The associations are unavoidable. Mr. Currin virtually begs for them, borrowing from a heap of styles most modern artists ignore. By themselves they do not make his art any more serious but they help explain why the pictures often tend to remind you of something, or of several things at once, the sources high and low, and usually hard to place. Is that Houdon's Voltaire in ''Minerva''? Or is it Goya that Mr. Currin was looking at? Did he have in mind Lucian Freud's teary, doe-eyed girls in bed with the covers pulled up when he painted his own version of them or was it a Hallmark card? Was it Hans Baldung or Dürer or Pontormo (it was probably all of them) who inspired those rubbery nudes with the Cosmo girl smiles?

You can be put in mind of Paul Cadmus's ''Seven Deadly Sins'' and Van Meegeren's fake Vermeers -- Mr. Currin seems to enjoy the mildly creepy, fetishistic absurdity of his anachronistic women and their subtle subterfuge: that nude reclining beside three spent phallic candles looks at first like Mantegna's ''Dead Christ,'' which is probably what you are meant to assume. But the source is Annibale Carracci, a slightly more distant allusion that shows how Mr. Currin keeps you guessing.

After painting his middle-aged women he went through a Picabialike patch of doing intentionally terrible paintings, which include the cantaloupe-breasted pin-ups. They toy ostentatiously with different modes of putting pigment to canvas, particularly with the bad-is-good approach. Generally, the works are just plain bad.

But a couple of the pictures, ''The Invalids'' and ''The Berliner,'' stick in the mind because of their extreme awfulness, which suggests they may not be so bad after all. The shapes flatten and snap. The colors pop. The subject of ''The Berliner'' is, as a British critic described Mr. Currin's bearded playboys, a kind of human Billy goat; he wears an argyle sweater-vest and big-collared shirt, the cliché of a vacationing art professor, circa 1980, with his glass of wine and bowl of spaghetti. Affecting randy nonchalance, he looks sad, small and vulnerable.

Like much of Mr. Currin's work, the image is cruel and tender. It seems plain as day and somehow not, and it's finally about the pleasure of painting -- pushing pigment around to make you look twice. Lately, Mr. Currin has been making works in which the pervasive malaise, less licentious and misogynous, is now subsumed in a larger project to fashion a more luxurious and durable brand of surrealism.

Works like ''Thanksgiving'' and ''The Lobster'' suggest cartoons, Norman Rockwell and Van Eyck, at the same time they flatter the eye with certain passages: the pool of blood below the uncooked turkey; the reflections of yellow from a bunch of lemons in a glass pitcher; a lobster's antenna that looks like a single curling hair on the woman burdened by a still life of fruit, bread, fish and a stringless violin.

These are Mr. Currin's virtuosic turns. Where are they taking him? This is the sort of contentious midcareer retrospective of a current commercial star, bound to raise some hackles, that the Whitney used to do in the 1980's, before critics lambasted the museum as an unserious institution pandering to downtown galleries. That was then. Now I'm a little sorry I was one of the complainers. The Whitney, which borrowed this Currin exhibition, could do more of these shows, the pleasure of which is to watch somebody who has already had a few ups and downs -- about whom the final verdict is not in.

What's certain now about Mr. Currin is only that he is a vexing painter with an imagination. It's not easy to make pictures that look strange to people today. We feel we have seen almost everything by now. Almost. We haven't seen the last of Mr. Currin.

''John Currin,'' organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Serpentine Gallery in London, is at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue, at 75th Street, (212) 570-3676, through Feb. 22.

tumbleweed said...

That gold chain up against that skin is glorious. I could look at that tricky little bit of painting all day.
I am also into the cluster of detail where the two faces come together... highest point of tension, and the darkest place on the canvas. There's a crevass there, where one might fall in.

In seems to me, in Currin's work, that it is entirely beside the point to talk about the anatomical impossibilities of arms when all his figures are so carefully DEFORMED anyway.

PinkandlacePony said...

It is a beautiful show. The porn pictures are sweet and funny. The one of the women trying to put the penis in the other women cracked me up. Her expression is so concentrated. It is hilarious. I think he is an incredible artist.

Thousand Points of Light said...

I saw his Show in 2003 @ museum of contemporary art in Chicago, and I was not taken with his most recent paintings at that time. They seemed bored, repetitive, banging them out.

His first portraits were something else, and it looks like he's now coming into another phase, although much more exuberant, they are hitting the vein of weirdness that is his territory.

no-where-man said...

koons was hot this is gross.

closeuup said...

Hasn't he painted himself into a postmodern corner, when so many are moving away? I mean my god there's a postmodern James Bond this week.

painterdog said...

I just can't stand what seems to me a cynical aspect in his work.

It's so wierd and mixing up this faux ol' master thing, I mean I like a lot of traditional painting, which is another subject, but Currin's work seems so fake to me.

I guess that's the point, painting himself into a postmodern corner.

However I did like the trukey painting that was good, it was Norman Rockwell on acid.

chicomacho said...
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chicomacho said...

like the very early work

later on just became neutral

the better he learns to paint, the more boring the images have become

porn paintings? my neutrality is starting to lean more toward dislike.....

overdone, boring, blah...porn is so fucking obvious and an easy way out

Decay Image said...

hlowe, Currin nailed it. The whole reason painting is interesting is that the subject is the artist. Painting is the most subjective point of view possible. Much more than writing, and much more than film or photography. Every moment in a painting is created by the painter. The signifiers may be infinite and free-floating but they are all assembled there by one person working in solitude. It is so perfect that he labels an illusion the idea that the subject is about anything else. You have to see beyond the illusions if you want to paint them.

PD, I guess you have never seen an Ingres, who did not paint a figure that didn't have some bizarrely constructed body part. Anyway, it isn't that the arm is impossible, just hilariously tiny given the fact that it is perspectively coming forward, so should be much larger. Something that currin plays with a lot. In fact in the same interview as quoted at the beginning, he talks about how he is an expressionist in that distortions and odd flesh colors are the expression of the artist's will. You must not have seen the show, which this is not the best one of. Because taken together they are a startling painted commentary on pornography, illuminating it in a way that no other painter has. I am not yet sure how he does it, it has something to do with shifts in focus and detail but there is an unexpected tenderness as well as humor, genuine eroticism (I know I am on perilous intellectual ground by using a highly subjective term, but what is interesting is the way he continually plays with the structures) and embarassment.

Koons took on pornography in a totally different way by trying to show how it functions as Kitsch. But they never seemed hot to me, only excruciatingly embarassing, but fantastic for that—and they weren't strictly paintings. Some of these paintings made me feel for the first time as if Currin had attained parity with artists such as Fragonard or Boucher. I am totally with pinkandlacepony.

Finally, I think this work is the exact oppposite of cynical by way of our discussion of last night. Cynical means that you have no feeling about it and are doing sheerly for the money because you know that is what will sell. I don't think Currin has to worry about it, people will probably buy anything he does at this point, and when he started, the world was arrayed against him. Now he is a master at being provocative, but it isn't cynical, he just really sneers at conventional wisdom. That is the part that is truly sincere. By the way I was really hoping he was going to fall on his ass by trying to take on pornography, but I was astonished by these. I have not felt this strongly about any other posted painter. I think he truly re-invents painting.

painterdog said...

I have seen a fair amount of Ingres, but his work does not approach that level of painting.

He's good and all, the last work I saw in person was afew years ago. I have not seen this show, so maybe I need to reserve judgement until I do.

I have never bought into the 'expressionist' aspect of his work or the explinations he has put forth about it.

They seem like something he thought up after the fact, could be wrong, anyway the distortion thing seems to come out of the mannerist than expressionism to me, and in that context the paintings work for me. There is also the Norman Rockwell twist.

painterdog said...
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painterdog said...

This article from Slate sums up my feelings on the subject.


Thousand Points of Light said...


Thanks for your considered thoughts which are interesting.

Since we've momentarily pushed beyond the quasi mystical one-liners, I'd like to loop back to last night and clarify my notion of cynical which I think was misunderstood.

I think of cynical as closely aligned to a sense of pessimism, being suprised not when things go bad, but when they go good. We are very good at postive and not so good at negative which seems to get us in lots of trouble.

I think a cynical perspective sees human nature as self interested, and is focused on what motivates people to do what they do not with a larger purpose in mind, but one that is highly attuned to their own personal desires and individuated sense of self. Its not just about money, even though that becomes ever more pressing.

This is a hallmark of our country and especially our time.

Having said this, I do think there is a fair amount of cynicism in Currin's paintings, esp. in the groupings of figures.

painterdog said...

Thousand Points of Light:

I agree with 100% on the cynicism seen in his work. That's the difference in looking at Ingre, which was mentioned before, and Currin. What Currin offers is not social critique but satire lite: familiar images of upper-middle-class life overlaid with a veneer of art-historical seriousness Simultaneously snide and ingratiating, the paintings sneer at the social milieu of the art-viewing public while appealing to individual viewers' vanity and erudition—which may account for the work's broad popularity.

By Mia Fineman

SurvivorNYC said...

Painterdog I am curious did you see this show? It is far less cynical than any before. They are very pleasant paintings really.

closeuup said...

so if these paintings are about the painter--then thats probably why they dont appeal to me. This is not my world. Im not that snobby and I dont feel so uptight about my sexuality. Again--these are preppie puritan americana. No coincidence they come out in the Bush years??

painterdog said...
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painterdog said...
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painterdog said...

Sorry,no I have not. Like I said, I guess I need to be more reserved on my judgement.

So this is his post-cynical phase?

He's a republican no? Does anyone know, does it matter?

Decay Image said...

Well, we are defining cynicism a bit differently. When self interest is not about money it necessitates having a larger purpose in mind. Like caring about the environment. It benefits my interests and those of my family to live on an environmentally friendly planet. If it were just about the money, you wouldn't care about anything else or how it affects others. But when I think of an artist as being cynical, it is more on the terms of "this is what will make me rich and that's all that's important.

Now when you think of Currin, and the paintings he looks at (and btw he has looked very intently at a lot of historical painting), I think his major concern is the art, and not in just getting by enough to make the $$. I think all of his career decisions come because he wants to protect the artistic decisions he has made, not the other way around. Which is how I see Fiona Rae.

When it comes to being in the world. I think you have to be suspicious when people pretend that they aren't doing something out of self interest. But I don't think that is being cynical, I think it is being an adult. But people also do things for all sorts of reasons that they are aware of or not. I think it behooves us all to be careful, to be aware of possible outcomes, but that doesn't really imply pessimism. We can't be afraid to undertake things because they might turn out badly, just as it would be foolish to believe that things will turn out well because you pray for it to.

I used to think Currin was primarily a misanthropist, which is definitely his unattractive side. But I also think marriage and fatherhood has mellowed his outlook a bit. I also think that if he really wanted to be controversial, he would have tried to apply the same erotic conventions that he has used to paint two men in bed.

zipthwung said...

"Since we've momentarily pushed beyond the quasi mystical one-liners, "

ah only for a moment!

nytimesreview - Theres this newpaper dude that I read about that used to write for the common man. I think Kimmelman is writing for "dear reader" moreso than usual?

which is what currin does only with paint.

What a dillrod. hole.
Ad hominum voibiscum!

these are not weird. Nor uncanny.

Currin was never and is not postmodern in any sense that I understand it -unless by postmodern you mean

"influenced by the past yet thinking of yourself as separate from it."

i.e. deluded.

If dude is dealing with issues of crapsmanship then that makes him as conservative as anyone coming out of NY academy of art college institute university. If hes doing it ironicly, because hes top fucking dog, then that makes him pretentious- i.e. art is the lie that sells the lie that jack built on a foundation of desire.

Showing porn is the oldest trick in the book. Its POWER austentatiously showing off POWER.

or powerlessness.

Like waving your sex parts around. Or yelling. Or having a show about food so morons have someplace fun to go to after the binge.

Its like chewing off your own leg to save your soul.
(I wear a hairshirt and a spiked chain)

Really powerfull people are invisible. I read that somewhere. Is it true? probably not, what with the new transparency. But its a nice idea, as an idea.

The truth is really powerfull people cant even lift themselves out of their easy chairs to exercise their power. Its one of those cosmic theological conundrums.

John currin, is very visible as part of gagosians ongoing smut project, second only to Deitch. They should play softball together.

Next week, buildersburg! AH what joy it must be to have lifted the dress and found the emerald forest! The big rock candy mountain! Will I ever find mine?

lets have a war so you can all go and die. Pop motherfucking bubble, pop!

Fuck you fucking haters. Cynics do it better.

Decay Image said...

Closeuup, you are confusing the idea that they are "about" the painter, with idea that the subject of the painting is the painter. His point was that representational painting creates the illusion that the subject is something other than painting itself. Or that's what he should have said. But one can't argue with your inability to relate to them. I would no more demonize that, than make a straw man out of possible reasons someone might have for liking them.

Thousand Points of Light said...


I was starting to worry in your absence.

Well he's got a Bacon show up so it can't all be smut.

closeuup said...

Im into the psychological--thats all I know. Im a bus driver...

closeuup said...

Currin's are post modern because he's painting in an old german style. The new James Bond is post modern because Sean Connery was Modern.

no-where-man said...

"Hot" as in Koons photographic avec Political Porn Star pieces come out of a tradition of Porn technique and medium however interesting the scale is and fact that they are in a gallery does not touch on the grotesque perversion of the medium of traditional oil painting, misproportioned figures and unlikely subjects, - not to mention which gallery the show is at i mean Madison Avenue.. oh my those people get unfloofed about everything. I just unearthed a copy of Jer's 'An Ideal Syllabus' for those who have not flipped thru it is lists of the favored books of Artists Critics and Curators, - Currins are Kenneth Clark - the nude, Herman Melville - Moby Dick and Wyndham Lewis - Tarr

zipthwung said...

im in the fiona rea reading room, off of the john currin proscenium. You know, in a schnabel.

zipthwung said...

I'm cool with porn as a commodity. Never gets old right? Oldest profession right?

Funny thing is, you're not a hooker unless you can turn a trick.

Ah the pleasure of paint.

WOw I can feel a breeze. Must be because Im an idiot.

closeuup said...

The prank represents an escape from the modern trinity of failure, servitude and prostitution. Because giving a skinned sheep’s head to Betty Ford, as ur-prankster Boyd Rice once did, doesn’t make the wheels of authority turn so much as it shuts off the machine entirely, if only for a little while...

painterdog said...

grotesque perversion of the medium of traditional oil painting

What? the medium of oil painting is grotesque?

Please explain your thesis.

no-where-man said...

no, sorry just the opposite: thesis in maslow's pedestrian view of Art pyramid oil painting is at the top of the hierarchy and skilled figurative painting at the top of that that where photography is still held lower in regards. So the "pornographic image" in a photography reads very different then in of Oil paintings exhausted place.

Decay Image said...

What is interesting about Currin vis a vis pornography (and you would really have to see the show to get this), is his different relationship to photography.

Every contemporary artist using pornography as a subject has used a direct translation of a photograph. There is a subservience to the way photography produces meaning in order to convey the sex act. What is interesting here is that the signifiers of eroticism do not really reference the way photographs work, but really the way paintings work. So all the sexual signifiers are painterly rather than photographic. For instance the way pubic hair is painted does not reference the way pubic hair looks in a photo, but the way hair or fur is conveyed in a (pre-photography) painting. And yet there is enough detail in the way light is conveyed as to have the vividness of a Courbet, or David say.

Compare that to the Tracy Nakayama that was posted last may. Or on the other hand someone whose figuration is so idiosyncratic as to not be believable. Like Garabedian. By creating the pornographic moment through the lens of oldmasterish painting the figures take on an invented quality that skews our traditional way we take in pornography. He plays with the way we are actually understanding the painting by maneuvering the viewer's attention.

If I understand nowhereman correctly, this is what he meant by the grotesque perversion of the medium of traditional oil painting. Although I don't think it's a perversion, but an illumination. It's why it's not about traditional craftsmanship (or crapsmanship either), except in that he had to learn how to make the references.

Look at the way he painted the porcelain china in the plates painting (a pun on Schnabel?). If he was trying for craftsmanship it would look like one of those still lives you see at Forum gallery. Currin is deceptive, and I think it's what makes people so huffy about it. People mistake it for irony, when I really think he is sincerely making you aware of not just the painting, but of yourself looking at the painting. And that, if we must have labels is what makes him postmodern.

no-where-man said...

that was the gist of what i was getting at at d.i., however i am a she and the "perversion" was a bit of ajab - not irony but not to be read all to literal.

Tracy Nakayama is a horse of a different color in that she does not include herself in the work and her sourse material is illistrastion.

Decay Image said...

thanks for clarification, making an incorrect assumption especially about gender is so embarassing. Hate confronting unconscious prejudices.

no-where-man said...
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no-where-man said...

hey no problem it happens all the time...
what is intersting about this new show is the light it sheds the
earlier work remember when all the hub bub was are latent man on man action, well now these let it all hang out.. seems to me the upper crust never really gets sexy. so uptight.

homemade pasta indeed.

NNCGT said...

As for distortion, not just Ingres but Bronzino and Parmigianino before him and tons of others. It seems funny to see this criticism of his mild distortion which is realy quite slight in comparison with the grotesqueries in so much contemporary figuration. The 19th cen. "source" for this painting is less Ingres or anything of that nature than Courbet, particularly the painting "Sleep." haven't seen it in person yet but am curious to.

NNCGT said...

ps... who is posting michael kimmelman consistently?? what a boring critic

adatrop said...

although there is still the desire to try to 'see' in these paintings; he consistently plays with the gaze of the viewer a la caravaggio. something about them [however] seems counter-intuitive, and keeps us looking.

or some of us.

have yet to see these paintings but happened to see the show in chicago a few years back.

no-where-man said...

tres place caesar

white robes, gold jewelry.. some what unnecessary

Decay Image said...

nowhereman: There is another gay-themed painting that was in the retrospective, which I think is much better because it dislocates the homophobia from the depiction. That is the painting with the younger man with his arms around a white-tshirted older man who is sitting between the younger man's legs. It's like it is challenging the viewer to call it homophobic, because it outwardly depicts a loving pride in the relationship, yet something about it is deeply disturbing. I think it is one of his best paintings.

BTW am I the only one to notice that the pasta makers are producing the pasta from the wrong end of the machine?

Sleep is in Paris @ the petite palais. It is a great painting and was in NY several years ago @ the Brooklyn Museum's Courbet retro. In his show, Currin takes on The Origin of the World painting to interesting effect.

I know how to post hot links to pages on the web, but how did you post your own repro with a link to it? I can't seem to find the instructions on blogger.

no-where-man said...

i love that painting and enjoyed the retro... i just thought pasta makers would bring more total recall...

i am going to post a link to making a link because those charaters involved would create more clutter to try to comment out and explain in this thread it is really basic html code.

how to make and html link

the code is in the left that you will copy and paste into an area like this - then on the right is how it will look after you hit post.

in this example replace: "http://www.microsoft.com/" with the ur of where you want to link to and "This text" with the words you want to show up in bleu that will link there.

no-where-man said...

sorry scratch that reverse it - don't know my left from my right... oh oh this seems like a good time to bring up:
teach a man to fish ;)

hlowe said...


That statement I posted at the top by Currin was made in defense of painting figures/representations of reality.
It's all about you. What? So....I can't exist in abstract thought?---and you say you are a painter? Haven't you ever ventured out of the skin?

jett said...

I was at the opening at Gagosian, and the paintings are fantastic. I've met John on more than one occasion, and he seems like a very cool guy.
The purpose of art is to provoke thought, either you love it or hate it, as long as it moves you, and makes you think, that I believe is the point.
He has done very well for himself in the last ten years. And the guy can really fucking paint.

mr peeps said...

a really cool guy? who has done really well for himself?? a guy who can really paint??
oh my god-- decay, thousand points, hlowe, etc, were bringing the level of conversation up around here, but jett has burst the bubble and brought us back down to the level of total fucking idiocy.

Anonymous said...

zip and nowhere are the only two that are making sense to me mr.peeps, kinda like Mr. Currin is playing tennis, but serving from inside the count, but not underarm, and on the other side of the court there is craft so tied up in itself, so helplessly tied (glued) to the court that it misses the return, which in tennis terms would be an ace.
I knew I liked you guys for some reason.

It's a good time for Currin-- like he's perfectly born to this time--the high end carrier of the interpretation. Takes all sorts.

Front Line Pony said...

I feel that Currin's work pops open the psyche in fascinating ways. His figures subtle and often imposed distortions lend to the idea of the human form today as comical, as over used, and as disturbing. Yes, it is true. Many artists before his time have mastered methods of painting much like his own but in different and startling ways. Why does this hurt your groin so much? Why do you weep and wish for something more real? What do you ask of this man? More truth? More violence? Why not act less like the person you are? Why pretend like you are not enormously successful? Ignore the fact that you are one of the most influential painters of this era! Please Mr. Currin, stop with the penises! It's so yesterday, it’s so done, fuck man, I don't even look at mine anymore. I feel weak from acknowledging its underlining sense of POWER! My Sister is in grad school and she can paint a better arm than you can, sucker! You're just lazy and couldn't figure out how to represent space properly! My paintings don't need arms, They’re just paint! They’re the truth! Why do you get to sell your work for so many pennies when I can't even push a drawing out of my mother's attic? It's not fair! I've seen someone paint flesh before! They used prettier brushes! You pretend like you're an accomplished painter, when in reality, you're not. You just think you are. And all the gallery owners who tell us to buy your work? Suckers! The people buying your art? Complete Suckers! They've sooo fallen into the line of comformist George Bush propogandic shit muzzlement. Oh my god! This must mean you are also a politically fucked individual! Which obviously makes sense because you paint like you know how to. Like, you talk about masturbating on the canvas thinking that it’s all an illusion of yourself. What shit! I'm not an illusion of my paintings! No sir! Because they look like completely rushed and over intellectualized "stick a finger up my teacher's ass" pieces of shit. And... uh oh.

Waaah. Your gonna be in history books and nobodies gawnna remember meee...

Anonymous said...

Distortion is fine front This artist, recusant, who sometimes posts here, is more the real thing, (my personal view), and shows that you can do almost anything with the figure. http://www.leokoenig.com/static/dyn-images/4/4566.jpeg
painting can go anyways--we just need to adjust our browsers.

exu said...

o see paintings of what these social x-rays and their partners really do-the handcuffs,the substances ingested-these folks look like they could use some more substances

exu said...

I'd like t

hlowe said...

"I feel that Currin's work pops open the psyche in fascinating ways."
Well, Front Line Pony, he certainly worked you up!
I don't mind if he fills the art esoterica book stores and he's a good pusher of paint but as far as his funny stuff-- I swear to God, I have seen much more clever ideas on covers of magazines or in editorial mags.
Lots of (other) really bad artists make dough. Does that upset me?
Great artists always rise to the surface---has nothing to do with money.

poppy said...

i got a question about currin if anyone is still posting...maybe it has been discussed already but i haven't read much yet.. Someone mentioned the impossible drawing and i was wondering if he did this on purpose? I started reading into things like the bowl of lemons in some of his work as he was aware his paintings are lemons..any truth to this..?
anyways whatever obviously the guy can draw and knows when something is wonky or fucked up so nevermind..but i do like thinking that he thinks his paintings are pieces of crap i think its funny

painterdog said...

the bad drawing is on purpose as far I know.

He does this a lot. the painting with the forshorting with feet that are to small, etc.

PrettyPablum said...

I think the point of this blog, especially in relationship to stARTISTS like Currin, is to openly discuss, as artists, why certain ideas/images and the people that create them, are widely promoted and seen as important. We all have a responsibility, as people who have so much as devoted our lives to something so irreconcilable to the idea of a successful life in America, to uncover truths about the market, seeing as it has an unfair amount of influence over which of us get to realize our vision and which do not. Currin has set a goal for himself and he has achieved it. I do not begrudge him that. But why do we continue to think that it is sheer talent that equates with financial success? When I think about Currin, I think of a man who set out to do something and did it. I think the same of Warhol, or Van Gogh. But my opinion of the work itself, is just that Currin is a caricaturist who can paint very, very well. That's it. There are a lot of very valuable points that have been made here. I agree with the suggestion that this is not a milieu that is familiar to most people, and that these wasp-y tableaus are simply irrelevant. This is very bourgeois stuff, for very wealthy people, shown in a blue chip gallery. We don't have to feel like we are being influenced by this work. I have no connection to these ideas. Everything about this is so outside the realm of my life that I agree with Zip- I don't have an opinion really, or not a strong one. I don't care. This is the exception, not the rule. But I say, good for Currin. In a New Yorker article a few years back showed a photo of him holding up his baby boy, who is naked. The boy has some huge cohones, if you know what I mean. It made me realize what is important to Currin. We all need our stars, and this man may very well be self-aware enough to know what role he truly plays, in what world. He is a purveyor of desire.

no-where-man said...

first time i really recall the work was the Whitney Bi where he shared the room with Lisa Yuskavage, at this point the characters could have walked out of the same awkwardly preportioned unapologetically baroque crafted and wierdly glowing world. now with saltz calling for a "return to her dirty-secret part" - What of where the paths there work took them on? How does the Currin show hold up to her Zwirner?

closeuup said...

lisa is telling guys like jer a little bit more than what they'd like to know about what its STILL like to be a woman in a mans world. Dont resist so hard jer. and dont tell ANY artist what to do. that is the ultimate presumption--and i just hate it when critics do that.

and currin still sucks

no-where-man said...

i guess females as they go forward have maybe larger needs...

Decay Image said...

I hit uptown yesterday to catch the last day of Lisa's show at Zwirner, Lucian Freud, and to see Currin away from the hubub of the opening. Also managed to breeze through the Whitney.

First of all, Yuskavage uptown felt more intimate and bravura than the show downtown. At this point I see no similarity between Yuskavage and Currin, despite what Jerry says. They approach meaning in entirely different ways. And Lisa seems more earnest in the psychologically therapeutic aspect of her work. Currin never tries to be liked or justified. Just doesn't need approval, though he seems to get plenty, the work doesn't ask for it.

For all you Currin critics: you just have to see this show. A few jpegs on line can't do it justice. And even if you thoroughly felt you digested the retrospective, drop your preconceptions for 15 minutes and just look at the paintings as paintings.

About ten years ago, Currin said to me that all representational paintings are artificial constructions, and composed of conventions that artists use to give expression to their imaginations. OK, maybe standard stuff, but the point was that paintings aren't depictions of reality, but made up stuff. That what is being depicted (as in the beginning quote) is not the world but the artist's imagination or psyche. All of these paintings are painted differently. It is not about being skillful or having good craftsmanship, but simply playing with using accessible painting conventions. And his skill is in making you aware of how you are constantly seeing a painting, an imagined object, and not just a naked woman, or a couple of gay men, by being specifically unskillful at crucial moments where he doesn't even try to finish the painting of a hand next to a lusciously realized thigh. It's like he can turn it on or off at whim, and wants you to think of the painting as a product of his will. They never seem labored.

Again, I must reiterate the great, original thing about Currin is the way he makes you aware of yourself looking, as well as what you are looking at. A good viewer can do this on one's own, I know, but Currin builds this into the painting. You don't just have attitudes, you become aware of yourself having attitudes.

Finally, closeuup, you are too smart to advance your point by saying "currin still sucks." Oh yeah, that's convincing. And hlowe, you may think you are getting out of your skin, but you can't get out of your self. Wherever you go there you are.

PrettyPablum said...

Very well put DI.
The terms "representational" and "abstract" seem so irrelevant to me anymore, and Currin is very strongly defending the relevancy of his work, although something makes me think you put it more lucidly in your above statement. I have not seen the show (it's been a fucked up week and one that i want to forget) but I know from this jpeg here there are delightful "areas" in the work such as you describe. It's just the "whole" of it that deadens the images and feels somewhat insulting. They kind of sting, and not in a good way. But that is the most I can say about the "whole". But where those faces meet, even if the one on the left is obviously wrong physiognomically, is the true virtue of this particular work.. I will take that and leave everything else.

zipthwung said...

"his skill is in making you aware of how you are constantly seeing a painting, an imagined object, and not just a naked woman"

Genius worship is the inevitable sign of an uncreative age.
-Clive Bell

I re-read Berger's "ways of seeing" every Christmas. Its at my parents house, on the shelf next to the Howard P Lovecraft and the RObert E Howard. Ironic, because theres no sex in Lovecraft, nor overt gender politics. Nor is there any of that problematizing in my parents house, unless I "bring it" in the form of a rented racy movie from the local video store. Thats "the way I roll", you know?

No, the only mystery is on PBS, culminating in a climactic denouement, as per le genre. And who am I to alter the narrative arc? To paint the town red? TO label existence a living hell in which we all wait resignedly for death, even John Currin who waits with a more comfortably benign veneer?

Im jealous of Currin's conservatively unconservative conservativism. His detachament. His jamais jamais jam. Conecticut biscuits. A starbucks crumpet. There are cooler cookies out there though;

The bannock, for example.

As an aside: WHy not make fun of black people instead?

Because there arent any.

But back to fractals:

A rose is the visible result of an infinitude of complicated goings on in the bosom of the earth and in the air above, and similarly a work of art is the product of strange activities in the human mind.

-Clive Bell

Its like ol clive invented bansai or fractals or something.

I think currin's work , like many a gagosian painter, are like an antifractals.

Thats streamlining. Thats efficicency. Thats mass production. Thats modernism.

Im with the folks who say hes on the road to nowhere, which is what connecticut is, to me.

The aura only grows.

Eddie said...

I enjoy the opportunity of this site very much. Though I don't mean to sound rude at all but a lot of these comments on this blog comes off as pretty jaded, bitter, and catty. It is good to have a place for discourse, but shooting down dismissively pretty much every single painter here speaks volumes. I don't call that discourse. I call it jealousy. I can't recall ever seeing single artist discussed here who comes off clean. It would be great to see commentary here that brings new insight to an artist's work, even if it isn't a full endorsement of that artist's work.

zipthwung said...

Re: Money Shot:

Does anyone think Currin isnt telling the truth?
I do, and theat why his stuff bugs me. Its like thinking "supersize me" is a fucking dietary revelation (gorge on fast food and you will get fat and stuff). I ate a couple of donuts a day for a while and gained weight. Then I STOPPED EATING DONUTS for a while and i lot weight. Simple as that.

"Let us assume that an actor is supposed to be startled by a knock at the door. If his reaction is not satisfactory, the director can resort to an expedient: when the actor happens to be at the studio again he has a shot fired behind him without his being forewarned of it. The frightened reaction can be shot now and be cut into the screen version. Nothing more strikingly shows that art has left the realm of the "beautiful semblance" which, so far, had been taken to be the only sphere where art could thrive."

Re: lated

Who will teach reading when writing is math?

zipthwung said...

Walter Benjamin has some pornographic stuff on how cameras ands surgeons penetrate where painters and magicians "opperate" or something. Seems like bullshit to me. But Im just skimming.


zipthwung said...

eddie, I am jaded and bitter, but catty is a gendered term - I prefer bellicose, which reminds me of cigar chomping bulldogs, for some reason.

You know, last of the mohicans. Scalps. Peer pressure. War as sport as war. That sort of thing. Othersise its just nerding it up in nerdland. Fuck that.

zipthwung said...

no wait i WILL be bitter. But Im not really old yet. Boy will I be bitter.

closeuup said...

DK--Im not trying to convince you of anything.

Of course John Currin and Lisa Y are technically very good painters--no dispute there.

LY is telling me something I know to be the truth, from my own experience. If Jer will only dig on paintings that tittilate him, then that's his deal.

JC is telling me something that I dont buy. I refuse to buy. He is not going to rewrite history with himself and his kind on top, AGAIN.

DK--Nobody really cares about how a painting makes you aware of yourself looking. I mean come on, Renoir did that!

poppy said...

i find it a longshot to ask everyone here to agree on an artists greatness.
if there weren't alot of disagreements among artists everything would be the same. that is the fun of this. Its unfortunate that these little disagreements are so negatively affecting some people. but that is one opinion and perhaps this interpretation of cicumstance will determine the kind of art you make so more power to the people posting

Decay Image said...

"Does anyone think Currin is telling the truth?"
What kind of question is that from someone who passes himself off as philosophically literate? Now just what truth would that be Zip?
Have you forgotten all about your Derrida?

Who is genius worshipping Mr. Mandlebroitmakesmehard? When someone comes along who is doing something original and distinctive, who takes a position that opens up some possibilities, I think we should applaud. That's what applause is for. I don't think Currin is a genius, I just think his contribution should be acknowledged. Yeah I think we can all agree that life is pointless and absurd, so you either kill yourself or do what makes you happy, fall in love, raise a family and die when your time comes. Currin's living the life of famous international artist so I don't have to.

zipthwung said...

I'd empty my lasso but
Mary's Robbing Peter to pay Paul
Boulders for shoulders
Fee fi fo fum,
Its like a jungle out there
Plumb thumbs and arabic guns running pie to infinity and beyond.
Ha ha huh ha.
Its cosmic.
We got fun and games because
Even serial killers leave clues
First ones free-
Next ones in the back.
Jack: Its a class.
with a Master of None.

Decay Image said...

Closeuup, you don't have to convince me of anything, just give the argument your best shot. Please be more specific. What do you think Currin is telling you? What do you think Yuskavage is telling you? Who exactly is John Currin's kind? Male, heterosexual artists? Successful people? Really, I'm at a loss, because I think the strength of both of them is their ambiguities. Jerry's whole point (which I don't really agree with btw) is that Lisa's current work relies too much on tittilation, and not enough on the creepy realities of her earlier work. And I don't think Currin is tittilating I think it shows how empty tittilation is.

And yeah of course Renoir did that, and Manet before him and better. That's what great painters are able to do: make you see how the conventional wisdom has worked its way into your point of view. I don't want to be told what I already know, I want my view of the world refreshed.

no-where-man said...


zipthwung said...

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zipthwung said...

Amatures do it until they get it right. Professionals do it until they cant get it wrong.
Doin it and doin it and doin it swell.
Army Navy Holliday in....
Theres gravy, and then theres wavy invisible and indivisability.
Weaponized incredulity.
If I had a hammer I'd strike surgicly:
hey stainless,
Get your teflon on.

zipthwung said...

Wait for the bridge....
hit it and quit:

i said you need a (wo)man who's got FINESSE
and his or her whole name across his or her chest
he/she may be able to fly all through the night
but can (s)he rock a party til the early light
they cant satisfy you with their inadequate sexual aparatus
but i can bust you out with my super status
i go do it, i go do it, i go do it, do it , do it
an i'm here an i'm there i'm big bang hank, im everywhere
just throw your hands up in the air
and party hardy like you just dont care


hlowe said...

decay im.
Okay, okay--that still wasn't my point but you've convinvced me to go take a look at his paintings again.

closeuup said...

Hey if you really valued ambiguity--you should love me! I dont make arguments either

closeuup said...

As my brother always told me, at this point in time, the white male has to prove they are non-heirarchical, "put on the dress" he said. I think JC pretends to put on the dress but I remain unconvinced. Isn't he kind of like the Borat of the artworld? I mean he's mocking the "other" stupid people, but does he include himself in that? I dont see that he does. And he doesnt mock power. Thats whay Michael Moore's Roger and Me is a better movie than Borat. Maybe not as funny, but better.

closeuup said...

As my brother always told me, at this point in time, the white male has to prove they are non-heirarchical, "put on the dress" he said. I think JC pretends to put on the dress but I remain unconvinced. Isn't he kind of like the Borat of the artworld? I mean he's mocking the "other" stupid people, but does he include himself in that? I dont see that he does. And he doesnt mock power. Thats whay Michael Moore's Roger and Me is a better movie than Borat. Maybe not as funny, but better.

Ursula's Dad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
painterdog said...

I already called the mannerism link.
I'm not being ingnorant, I still think its bad drawing, stop making assumptions it makes you seem like such an asshole.

painterdog said...

painterodg said...
They seem like something he thought up after the fact, could be wrong, anyway the distortion thing seems to come out of the mannerist than expressionism to me, and in that context the paintings work for me. There is also the Norman Rockwell twist.

painterdog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I differ. Borat was totally mocking power in the Frat Boy scene, and the singing of the National Anthem.

This painting was produced with sweat and labor, even if the artist isn't of the working class.

Without knowing the politics of the painter, I think it's about hedonism, the golden bangles of a falling empire. The way the front figures hand is stuck in the rear figures sleeve, pocket, or glove of the same color seems to point to whitebread perversity and golden handcuffs.

I can't buy that it's easily dismissed as preppy or conventional. It's perverse, using a conventional idea of perversion. But, it's also mocking its own flesh.

I'm glad everyone has strong opinions here. It's rich.

canada said...

am i the only one that thinks each 'comment deleted by poster' is one which tells painterdog what an asbolute fucking moron they come across as?
just curious.

Ursula's Dad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
painterdog said...

who me? or the guy who was calling me one because he started reading the post half way into it.

If he had he would have seen as stated above that I totaly get the mannerist connection.

Hey if your not into this guy what's the problem, I have seen enough of his work to form a pretty good opinion of what I like and don't like in Currin's work.

I just find the work kind of boring, like I said there a few I do like, a some that I just can't stand.

I also said I will reserve jundgment until I see the work in question in person.

Lighten up folks, hey maybe post the turkey painting in honor of thanksgiving...

Anonymous said...

Skipping the lexicon of high modernism John Currin is perhaps the lamp bearer, the all-that-we-wished-for, counter play, apropos, genocide conservative ta-boot, who, with loads of skill, and lacking of idea thereof, offers panache.
He's the perfect jack-of-all-trades, and the jill-of-none-the-rest.
The flesh exudes life with beta as a platform--a perfect canceling out!

SurvivorNYC said...

The turkey painting was posted last year in honor of Thanksgiving.

I am suprised more people didn't want to celebrate how great of a painter Currin is. These comments are frustrating.

zipthwung said...

"Gift of shit"


Christmas each year. gets earlier.
Thanks John.

closeuup said...

Thats what I mean sis--i think so many great artists have gone beyond this so called perversity. JC is draggin behind.

Frat boys represent petty power-like in animal house. Nobody enjoys seeing frat boys humiliated more than i do. And what about that torture scene in the new James Bond movie. I loved that. But when someone skewers the CEO--then we're really talking pure pleasure.

closeuup said...

and that smiley faced demon that is Colbert--cant forget. He's about as great as Paul Mc Carthy

Decay Image said...

God, Brent how can you say currin lacks ideas? All the monochromatic bullshit modernist evangelicials are the ones who lack ideas! What new (or any, for that matter) idea is there in an Ellsworth Kelley? Isn't that really the contentless elegant work that's been all that the hedgefunders have wished for (until now)? These paintings are full of ideas, about painting and culture and society. You might as well say that Manet lacked ideas because they catered to the bourgeoisie he represented. Of course Manet didn't sell too many paintings in his life, but he didn't need to, he was rich. I know you are stuck in japan, but you really can't judge this until you see these paintings. And based on exactly what information can you label him a "genocide conservative?" That bullshit pisses me off. I can respect your right to not be moved by the work, but this is good faith contemporary art, not (pace, closeuup) upperclass leroy nieman.

closeuup said...

I have sneered at conventional wisdom all my life. I know where it gets you. Not at the top. Dig it.

Anonymous said...

Repetition is when recycling stops looking recycled and begins to rid the bits that the cycling stood for to end up not standing for too much.

Blame Kelley--his works don't stand for too much either (except a tradition)。 They simply 'are' via a concentrated effort, good worked ideas about how to look within the world, perhaps how to involve with it; finally, how to involve with the work, and stand outside of it. On a technical note Kelly is probably a little more refined and fresh in that his glow glows out as colored light. However, a metal piece exists without the need to stack neon on the back: It's a thing—NOT AN IDEA! The idea is about thingyness and nonethingyness. The idea is to stay very clean, and then there are ideas that come out, naturally--not merely ideas of ideas painted exquisitely ABOUT IDEAS. He’s very flexible because he starts each time from the beginning.
Blame Kelley. His prices are good.

Blame Currin--his work stands for a lot. They don't make a clear argument. Nor do they need to. THEY ARE ABOUT IDEAS. They follow a tradition, and stand upon it like some hegemonic cattle rancher bronzed with lasso. THOUGH CURRIN USES PAINT that glorifies the cattle rancher, his wife, and a whole set of equations, luxury, class, without getting too deep into the conundrums: the weekly diet of male testerone squeezed from the glossies, gleaned over with paint that is context abundant content reserved--aperitif.
Blame Currin. His prices are excellent.

Hey decay it's just my opinion. I'm not too serious about it and definitely not too serious about John Currin as an artist offering something substantial...
History is like the seasons: to move it on, to keep fresh, we turn the leaves less they must fall.

painterofpainters said...

Of course his work was real kitch, even worse than i expected seeng it ad with porn. compositions very straight and pretty banal. like illustrations from book. colors are standartly sugarly-nice, his pseudo old masterly technique never left any space for improvisation and free fleeting of paint. but somehow misteriously it makes you respond, not just look and forget. at least respond; not so little in our world.

tomas said...

Now I understand. Kelley is very clean. And Currin is a hegemonic cattle rancher bronzed with lasso.

zipthwung said...

Well I think you can take the bull by the horns or not - if you dont, thats called begging the question. I chose not to do that, cuz I hate begging and I live dilemmas, even if they are BS.

Lets play master and servant.
I dunno, im still pretty indifferent to these. I mean porn is ubiquitous.

ad3pt said...

id rather look at porn than this

NNCGT said...

This jpeg is misleading... it's a good bit better than the average handling of paint in this show, which I found uneven in quality, though somewhat interesting in the subjects brought together, most notably the white porcelain vessels and naked bodies. The paintings of children would do better to not exist. And the show is badly overhung. That said, I'll weigh in on the Lisa Y. issue. I was far more captivated by Currin's show, but find them both just barely better than mediocre painters.