2019-10-07 21:40

For His First Museum Show in 15 Years, John Currin Turns His Gaze to Men

How do you know when you’re done?

I don’t know how to finish a painting. All I can tell you is how it feels for the painting to be finished. I don’t want to make a gross or inappropriate analogy, but it’s a little bit like when you first remember being in high school or college or whatever and it’s going to be your first kiss. It’s scary. You don’t know what to do. But then it just happens. And in retrospect it seems like, Oh yeah, of course. It was natural.” Something a little bit like that happens in the painting where you’re nervous and nothing’s happening and it’s like you’re thinking it through and talking, and talking, and talking. And then, if you’re lucky, something physically happens in the painting; physical logic takes over, rather than the idea. My role diminishes, and I’m more of a craftsman. I just work here. I’ve been sent to fix a few things. I’m just cleaning up now. I’m picking up my tools.

What’s your favorite artwork by someone else?

I have to sort of balance my urge to lie, and my urge to tell the truth. I need to lie to figure it out. I know it was Hunters in the Snow” by Bruegel, or The Peasant Dance” — the one where the people are running in from the right side of the painting. And then Botticelli, I guess. The Primavera.” But you know, I feel like it’s a little dishonest of me to name an Italian artist.

Courbet is kind of the trashy one that I always come back to when I’m feeling like I’ve got to figure out something. WWCD: What Would Courbet Do? I saw The Origin of the World” in Brooklyn when I was 19. I’d seen 900,000 photographic images of women spreading their legs but I’d never seen a painting. It was the weirdest feeling. It was much more real than a photograph. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. It completely knocked me over. And in a way that’s one of my favorite paintings. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t.


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