John Currin PAintings
December 22, 2003 3:50 PM   Subscribe

A Touch of Crass: paintings by John Currin.
posted by hama7 (21 comments total)
The subject of a painting is always the author, the artist". - John Currin

High-roller or "disingenous and meretricious hack"?
posted by hama7 at 3:55 PM on December 22, 2003

A very interesting cultural phenomenon, this John Currin. He knows his art history, and he is consumately crafty. Yet his work is offputting to me. I even feel that his work is in some way completely... I don't know... unnecessary.
posted by e.e. coli at 4:49 PM on December 22, 2003

Hideously marvelous. Or marvelously hideous. Either way, nice find.
posted by rushmc at 5:39 PM on December 22, 2003

thanks hama7. reminds me of Levine's work.
posted by poopy at 5:51 PM on December 22, 2003

boy this guy is getting a lot of press lately.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 6:23 PM on December 22, 2003

Soulless. Ick. Isn't he just an illustrator posing as a painter? I find his popularity amusing. The dreck is fashionable. Though I am surprised he's not painting on black velvet yet.
posted by hypnorich at 6:51 PM on December 22, 2003

I saw quite a few of these paintings at the Saatchi Gallery back in 1998. Currin's work doesn't really qualify as "lowbrow", but it's got the same kind of feel. I really liked them.

As for the "disingenous and meretricious hack" review, wtf is this David Cohen weenie's problem? His main argument appears to be that because Currin's art pleases people, contains elements of whimsy, and uses kitsch imagery, that it's therefore worthless. So I guess that means that in his pissy little world of highbrow art, Grant Wood sucked ass too? And what's with this Yale obsession of his, is he a Harvard grad or something?

Jesus, I hate art critics.
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:51 PM on December 22, 2003

Though I am surprised he's not painting on black velvet yet.

Or designing Flash sites.
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:59 PM on December 22, 2003

Currin would chortle at being branded "meretricious," for that is exactly what he is. He presents fair-seeming depictions, apparently realistic, with an intent that belies that representation--and makes good money at it to boot! This is the most effective surrealist work since Maigret.

It is nothing short of amazing that Currin has assimilated the techniques of the great portraitists such as Cranach, Rembrandt, Fragonard, Sargeant, usw. Whatever his work is, "hack" work it is not.

And you, mi cara hama7, how does such a cultivated and artistic person as you apparently are manage to stomach the toxic political vituperation you routinely offer the world of MeFi? It is reasonably clear that Meretrix --now *really* of Babylon, BTW-- is the tutelary goddess of the Impending One Party State ("IOPS") that such livid commentary would suggest you favor. Oh well, foolish consistency. . . hobgoblins. . . .small minds. . . . must lie down now. . . .
posted by rdone at 7:10 PM on December 22, 2003

rdone - Leave that hama7 alone, you!

Let me venture a personal story - I once had a romance with a woman who I was very cruel to but also in love with, very much so.

We met as outcasts at a party - I entertained her by reading the dictionary, sarcasm complimentary. She later told me that she yearned for and fantasized that my powerful hands - musclebound through physical labor - would touch her body. She was first-generation Japanese and German - an axis beauty - and a slave-galley programmer for NASA who drove a Chevy Caprice with a V-8. We fell into each other's arms. She worshipped Heinlein's science fiction and had a black belt and a beautiful voice. I was very cruel to her, to my eventual sorrow.

When - at last - she came to her senses and found another to love, I was devastated. All matches are approximate and often somehow a rough meeting of equals, I learned. She, petite and aggressive, lacked the brawn to be the Navy SEAL she wished to be (oldest daughter of a son-less father) and watched Schwarzenegger movies. I, gently, sadistically liberal and overly cerebral (despite my auto mechanic's overlay of a patina of grease ) worried about everyone's behavior but my own and obsessed on the wider troubles of the world whilst neglecting my own house : how could she be so naive, so seemingly young despite her years, so disconnected from the rampant political storms raging 'round the globe, I wondered?

She was not repressed. She owned a motorcycle, would try anything once, and liked bad boys - of which I was probably her last.

Later, I asked my running partner, an ex-Jesuit beer vendor and painter and - more importantly - personal saint to the elderly and the down-and-out (as we jogged through the Baltimore night) for his opinion on the matter.

"Well, you know", he said, "we all mature in different areas at different times." - at this I was stunned, as if I were a suddenly landed trout.

I - of course - was quite oblivious to my own blind spots and areas of retardation...for all my cleverness, the concept had somehow never occurred to me. I never saw her again but held the lesson close. My dedication to the lesson lessened the pain.

Pain's only relative, too. I recall hearing the voice and words of a woman whose husband and entire family had been brutally murdered - "It left a big hole in my heart", she said, "big enough for the whole world."

So there you go.

Hama7 - I very much liked the Currin paintings. I thought of Dianne Arbus. But the reviewer?.....sensationalistic.
posted by troutfishing at 9:51 PM on December 22, 2003

Great stuff, as usual, hama7.

troutfishing, you have made me smile from ear to ear, something indeed rare at 7 in the morning.
posted by plep at 11:02 PM on December 22, 2003

Wow, troutfishing, you just set the gold standard for writing on MeFi. Now I really need to read about the rest of your life. You really followed up on that "leave the audience wanting more" dictum, dictn't you, you heartless bastard? Don't wait till you're old until you write your autobiography, hear?

But nobody's perfect. How can you compare Diane Arbus, who changed our way of looking at people, with Currin's over-elaborate pastiches and caricatures? :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:48 PM on December 22, 2003

rdone, by likening Currin's work to Maigret, rather than Magritte, you made a comparison about surrealism aptly surreal...

Currin's paintings are new to me & I'm quite taken with some of them (thanks, hama7) - the only other contemporary painter I know of who has deployed old-master techniques as successfully is Odd Nerdrum.
posted by misteraitch at 3:31 AM on December 23, 2003

misteraitch, meet Sandow Birk.

troutfishing, this wouldn't have been the same grlf who drank her own urine, would it?
posted by MrBaliHai at 4:59 AM on December 23, 2003

manage to stomach the toxic political vituperation you routinely offer the world of MeFi?

Vituperation? I prefer "improvisation".

Going back to the high roller link; the entirety of images there are quite dreadful, or worse: just extremely poorly executed. That, in tandem with the sale prices this work is fetching, is bound to raise a few eyebrows.

At their best the paintings hold up pretty well. (He said, squinting at a tiny digital approximation of the actual image)
posted by hama7 at 6:16 AM on December 23, 2003

I saw an exhibit of Currin's work in Chicago last May. Being particularly well versed in neither art history nor what's supposed to be good and/or cool now, I'm left to appreciate art solely on the emotional effect it has on me, which is liberating to me but probably frustrating to others. I like Currin a lot.
posted by jennyb at 6:26 AM on December 23, 2003

MrBaliHai - Well, no. That was a different ex-girlfriend who - when I met her, was working as a farrier - shoeing horses, that is. I hope the other ex-girlfriend doesn't read that little bit I just wrote there and kick my ass.

Plep - I'm glad. I blame it on a nip of "Yukon Jack" chased by a 40oz bottle of Bush beer.

Miguel - Thanks. That means a lot, coming from you...I learned everything I know about writing from Richard Brautigan. I figure I have about 2 midsize volumes of autobiographical short stories to burn through before I run out of personal history to milk for inspiration. But as for the Metafilter gold standard.....there's another strong contender lurking around here, a guy who tells me he rarely writes creatively. A few weeks ago I went off on an absurdist riff, on the "Mary Celeste" post - Languagehat caught the madness and followed my lead with his own excellent in-theme companion fantasy........but, then, Davehat just waltzed in from out of the blue hinterlands and put us both to shame with a work so nuanced, seemingly effortless and polished that I wondered if a major talent might just be languishing somewhere in the UK deep in the slave mines of "The Guardian".

I came to call the collective work - a triptych - "A food-based history of the Cold War"

So begins the mighty Davehat :

"In the late 1950s, Dr Richard Phillips, a researcher at Poppleton Technical College (a founding member of the University of Poppleton) published his paper “Wheat Starch Granule Distribution. Amylose and Amylopectin Polymers in household comestibles” in the noted journal, The Custard, Gravy and Match-head Bindings Sentinel.

On the morning of September 13th 1960, Dr Phillips accepted a lift to work from a mysterious man driving what eyewitnesses described as a space age vehicle (later identified as an Austin 1100). He has never been seen in public since......."

It was a perfect storm of writerly madness.

Meanwhile - to nitpick - I wasn't actually comparing Currin to Arbus - I agree that she belongs in a different category. But there's more than a hint of the grotesque in Currin's work which somehow reminded me of ol' Diane...
posted by troutfishing at 6:49 AM on December 23, 2003

Agreed. When I first saw Currin, my first thought was of Arbus. Thematic similarities, if nothing else..
posted by Vidiot at 10:14 AM on December 23, 2003

I liked it!
posted by mcsweetie at 10:41 AM on December 23, 2003

I really like John Currin. His style *almost* matches my mental image of the style of Robertson Davies's fictional modern Old Master, Francis Cornish. Except Currin deals with modern subjects while Davies's character didn't.
posted by eilatan at 11:30 AM on December 23, 2003

his stuff always reminds me of Cadmus--he's kinda the straight version...and I second the overexposure thing for Currin--what's up?
posted by amberglow at 11:19 AM on December 26, 2003

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