Saturday, May 29, 2010

John Currin: Embarassed

This interview (the official interview on the Gagosian site) is quite worth a look.
I found it interesting that Currin said he was "embarassed" to the point of apology by his love of the old masters, the figure, beauty and skill. But then he was quick to confidently point out his modernist influences. Which, certainly don't reveal themselves in his work. Yet when I ran into Currin at the Met - gazing at a Titian nonetheless - he only expressed his deep love for the work.

I've often heard the same apologetic language, and the same modernist references from Vincent Desiderio, Eric Fischl, and Julie Heffernan. This is not to say that I doubt that they are influenced by modernism or that they should or shouldn't be so, but simply to point out the double standard here. This underlines the fact that the artist can't reveal his sincere love of the old masters, and or a traditional sense of skill and beauty, and also not be marginalized by the art world. If there is any reference, it must be purely ironic, or coldly cerebral. This is pluralism? All things are equal, they say - except of course humanism, traditional skill, and emotional sincerity. They state equality, and at the same time reinforce a subjective hierarchy based on historical revision and the artificial inflation of prices.

Where is the humanity?


Stephanie Deshpande said...

I think this reaction by artists is a result of being surrounded by modernism. After four years of college in a University highly influenced my modernism, my hatred for abstract art was slightly tempered. Perhaps it was a way to adapt to my surroundings or because I was afraid of offending any fellow artists. Also, since there were so few figurative artists that I knew of, I began to appreciate art that was even a little representational. But what you say is true. Just recently, my father-in-law asked me if I liked abstract art. My initial reaction was to explain how I can appreciate it and how it influences some aspects of representational art such as Vincent Desiderio's painting ”Cockaigne, 1993-2003.” I was somewhat shocked when he admitted that he did not like modern art at all. I felt embarrassed that my first reaction was to justify it.

Craig Banholzer said...

Amen. To look at Vincent Desiderio's work, you'd think he'd be full of praise for the old masters and respect for traditional teaching methods, but at a gallery talk I attended last year, the only artists he mentioned were Manet, Cezanne and Duchamp, and he referred to traditional teaching as "academic bullshit." I can't see the connection between these attitudes and his paintings.

Anonymous said...

This whole interview is so wrong on so many levels I was squirming for him,It made it worse that the interview was so glib initself that the cultural car crash of a contemporay artists existence has arrived at such an excruciating self justification.When I say arrived I in noway imply that the conclusions & assertions Currin makes are historically inevitable quite the opposite.I've allways loved his paintings but this is lifeless,he's genuinely not engaging in self censorship for social management reasons he really beleives that painting can reinvent itself to the point of being precient.(sorry for the spelling but I just had to get this out)