- born in Boulder, Colorado in 1962
- grew up in Connecticut
- BFA from Carnegie Mellon University in 1984
- MFA from Yale in 1986
- Peachy skin tone & frill from French Rococo paintings
- Norman Rockwell
- 16th century German, Lucas Cranach
- Distended anatomies and distorted proportions of Northern Renaissance & early Mannerist works
- Face, makeup, mannerisms and hairstyles borrowed from contemporary advertisements, magazines and movies
- looks to antiquity often
- pinup magazines, school girls
- not interested as much in live models
- pornography began when a friend offered him a magazine clipping of a cartoon that he thought Currin would find interesting, yet Currin found the pornographic image on the back much more stimulating
- began using specifically Danish porn shots
- “I love grand, classically nude paintings and there is really no situation where plausibly you have criss-crossing limbs and stuff like that except in pornography.”
- “I thought it would be interesting to make them explicit and see if there is any mystery or any space left after you completely drain the potential. It’s like when you don’t show things, you build up a kind of voltage. So what happens if you totally open it up? Is the painting going to have any kind of energy at all? In a way, these are very unisexual paintings.”
- Currin says his more sexual paintings were also inspired oddly by an Islamic dispute (a furious reaction to the publication by a Danish newspaper in 2005 of a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohamed)
- Currin was angered by the fact that The New York Times and Time magazine wouldn’t publish the cartoon “After people had been killed over these things, they wouldn’t show people what it was about.”
- He is worried about Europe and thinks that Europe is losing the war against Islam (he thinks there is a war against Islam)
- He chooses to depict these sexual encounters as Europe
- “Often, I find myself attracted to ideas that are ill-advised and bad…It’s not because I want to shock people or show how open-minded I am, but for some reason stupidity is a theme for me in painting and I find it liberating…I don’t know why, but I feel freer. But perhaps there is some need I have to redeem this silliness with something really solemn and somber and beautiful.”
- idealizes women and exaggerates the concept of “beauty” present in renaissance art of thickness or fat (as a sign or presence of wealth)
- exaggerates this through the rounding or bulging often of the stomach or breasts
- faces are usually idealized and placated, seeming all too docile yet unsettling
- initial preparation for painting includes much drawing before attacking the canvas
- often times years are spent on small drawn drafts
- oil paintings, muted colour palette to accentuate a feeling of coldness
- colour palatte adds to the feeling of discomfort that can be drawn from his images
- paintings on average take 2-3 years to complete
things I was particularly interested by/what drew me to Currin
- most of his artwork is initially received with disgust but from what I have read, there is no critic that can deny his technically ability and stylistic prowess
I find myself being more draw to art works that make me feel uncomfortable. I think that is an aspect of art that almost everyone is intruigued by because we want to know what causes this discomfort. There is an eerie quality to Currin’s works that makes me feel inconclusive on his decisions while creating. The facial features and the placement of the hands on the figure are I think the cause of this discomfort. Currin references the hand placement of Da Vinci’s work many times. Awkward and almost unnatural gestures make the viewer feel ill at ease. The absent yet cheerful impressions commonly found in his works are often unsettling.
Something I found interesting through my research was the amount of times critics referred to Currin as satirist. In an interview with Daniel Kunitz for Blouin Artinfo Currin says “Whenever I see the word satire in a review, my heart sinks…I think of my work as pretty solemn, but it comes out as satire, I guess.” Its interesting how Currin’s art largely isn’t seen the way he intends.
I also found it interesting how he says his art radically changed after 9/11, and he mentions how it really affected him. He wondered in an interview if his fans would notice the change in his works.
Initially I was drawn to Currin because I admired his stylistic choices in muted tone and obvious distortion yet seemingly accurate proportion. The unease caused by his paintings was really appealing to me as an artwork. After reading interviews with him I appreciate him not only as a means of producing great works, but he seems to be an interesting person with interesting ideas that feel similar to mine. Currin says that no matter the amount of time a work takes he will not give up on it. I am the same in that way (although none of my works have yet to take 10 years to complete).
When being asked about the connections he draws between his pornographic works and Islamic conflict he says “ ‘Neither do I understand the connection, actually,’ Currin confesses, laughing slightly.” This quote made him feel more real to me, because I idealize his works so much, this grounded him and made him more personable which I found interesting. Although he wishes his art to carry heavy meaning, he is very playful when addressing his works and his lifestyle.
“About This Artwork: John Currin, Nude on a Table, 2001.” The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 2012.
“John Currin: The filth and the fury.” The Independent, 2 Derry Street London, March 16, 2008.
“A Can of Worms.” Frieze Magazine, Stuart Morgan, March/April 1996.
“John Currin.” Artinfo, Daniel Kunitz, March 14, 2011.