A Slippery Artifice
John Currin was born in 1962 in Boulder, Colorado and grew up in Connecticut, where he studied painting privately with a renowned traditionally trained artist from Odessa, Ukraine, Lev Meshberg. He is best known for satirical figurative paintings which deal with provocative sexual and social themes in a technically skillful manner. In his early career Currin set himself apart by painting controversial depictions of female subjects ranging from ebullient big-breasted girls to drab menopausal women. As the artist matures his increasingly complex depictions of the figure have continued to enchant, repel or more often create a peculiar combination of the two. He has been labeled variously as a mannerist, radical conservative, caricaturist, or simply prankster, but Currin continues to evade categorization.
His series of contentious and compelling paintings attest to his exploration and elaboration of the history of figurative art. His sources are as diverse as 1970s Playboy magazine advertisements, Old Master Portraits, and mid-twentieth century film. With such assorted inspiration he produced dubious yet beautifully rendered compositions that suggest a challenging and slippery new aesthetic rooted in the artifice and stylistic extravagance of High Mannerism.
Currin’s magnificent technical accomplishments that he achieves through a close emulation and study of the graphic rhythms, compositional devices, and polished surfaces of the sixteenth and seventeenth century European painting, combined with the artist’s edgy contemporary subject matter that is entirely his own, produces works of art that will forever rouse dynamic debate and discussion.
PORTRAIT OF THE WIFE AS A YOUNG ARTIST John Currin at work on a portrait of his wife, artist Rachel Feinstein, in his studio in New York City’s Flatiron District.. Courtesy of Vanity Fair.
2010, in conjunction with “John Currin: New Paintings” at Gagosian Gallery Madison Avenue
30 x 18 inches (76.2 x 45.7 cm)
Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
Oil on canvas
48 1/8 x 34 inches (117.2 x 86.4 cm)
© John Currin
Photo by Rob McKeever. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
John Currin. Moroccan girl. 2001. © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, RMN-GP / Georges Meguerditchian / John Currin. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, New York.