After reading the review that Jerry Saltz wrote in the Village Voice online I followed the link to the Gagosian Gallery and happily discovered that the John Currin exhibit has been extended until January 27th! This was a happy moment for me since I was regretting the thought the I had missed seeing this work in person. I have always wondered about Currin’s work and wouldn’t say that I have “loved” it in the past, but it has always sparked something in me. As with Lisa Yuskavage, Currin is one of the few contemporary figurative painters that I can look towards. What they do is different from what I do, yet representation, whether stylized or not, is the dominent feature in all the works. When I think of John Currin I think of Alex Katz. In his recent show at Gagosian, Currin has traversed his normal suburan, matronly figures, for paintings inspired by 1970’s porn. The paintings are hanging in the square space intersperced with more traditional portraits. All of the work varies in the weight of paint placed on the heavy linen canvases and I could see elements of a Raw Siena underpainting as well as hints of drawing. While all technically executed, I was less into the shock of the nudes and more drawn to the non-sexual works. I found myself wondering about the people. The portraits. Do they exist? Are these people real or just fabrications designed by the artist. I looked closely at the nude bodies. The details that changed very slightly from canvas to canvas. After reading another artists blog on the show, I learned that the nudes in the paintings are based on fotos from Danish porn. This doesn’t bother me, but what does are the tiny inconsistencies. In one image a hand has nailpolish. In another image (presumably the same “time”) the hand is now without nailpolish. This is a small detail but bothered me a bit. Otherwise, I found the paintings inspiring and even felt a comradeship with the artist particularly evident in the fact that he is looking towards the past (particularly “Old Masters”) in making these works. I felt on-point when seeing a portrait of a woman with expressionless black eyes holding a bowl of fruit. This reminded me immediately of the works including fruit and comparisons to the human body, evident in the exhibit of Lisa Yuskavage at the David Zwirner gallery (and noted in a previous post) as well to the works of Caravaggio. As you all know from my “fruity” post, I am working on a still-life of fruit and feel that fruit for some reason, feels very relevant to me right now.
My newest addition to “The Fruit of my Labor”. I’ve been removing the fruit from the bowl and cutting it, sucking the lime, and yesterday ate one of the apples. Today, while not included in the bowl, I bit, and added a banana. All of this reminds me how much I enjoy painting from life and how I wish people I knew were as still as fruit. ;)
I recommend that everyone make a pilgrimage uptown to see this show before it closes. Have an opinion and decide whether you love the work, hate the work, or feel indifferent. Personally I think that in regards to figurative painting, this is an influential show that will be remembered and I’m sure that references will start popping up in various artist/student work in Manhattan and in studios throughout the country.
(also, after seeing the exhibit and feeling reinvigorated, I took a walk through Central Park, and was reminded of the sky. The trees. And the earth. All while bundled up. And took a break to take a quick foto for a visiting couple. My camera phone looked at the sun. Luckily, it didn’t blind me.)
Also, kudos to Jerry Saltz (Jerry-stache in a previous post) for being voted top Art Critic in New York by Time Out New York, December 2006.