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Gagosian Quarterly

May 12, 2017

JoHn CurrinOn Drawing

John Currin talks about three pairs of works and discusses the relationship between his drawing and painting practices.

This is the one that I made the painting from. I had done some goofier versions of it, but it wasn’t until I did a much more subdued, almost trite drawing like this that I saw how a drawing of a nutty idea could turn into a painting. It is actually a very good example of how an idea totally changes going from drawing to painting. One of the things I was thinking about was genre painting—about [François] Boucher and how everybody looks the same, like a separate race of people. And so I just thought, “Ok, in this one their attributes are these big breasts.” Another thing about genre painting is how it plays around with what the subject of the painting is. It’s like the [Jean-Baptiste-Siméon] Chardin painting of the boy staring at the spinning top. It’s not a painting of a boy and it’s not a painting of a spinning top. You are seeing someone who is also kind of obsessing visually, so there’s a kind of hall-of-mirrors effect. That, paired up with the idea that big breasts are something that you stare at.

John Currin: On Drawing

John Currin, Untitled, 1997, ink on paper, 14 ¼ × 11 ¼ inches (36.2 x 28.6 cm)

John Currin: On Drawing

John Currin, The Bra Shop, 1997, oil on canvas, 48 × 38 inches (121.9 × 96.5 cm)


This was a study of Rachel’s face for the painting called  Thanksgiving, where she’s being fed some soup; I think I originally got the idea from The Scream. I did several studies of this, and I vacillated between having her look scared or looking like a baby being fed, but ultimately I picked this one where she looks more like a bird being fed—which in the painting is then echoed by a turkey in the foreground waiting to be stuffed. The whole thing ended up being an allegory about Rachel being pregnant with our first child—but it wasn’t even something I tried to do. She got pregnant right when I started the painting and gave birth just a couple days after I finished it.

John Currin: On Drawing

John Currin, Untitled, 2003, charcoal and chalk on paper, 17 ⅞ × 13 ⅞ inches (45.4 × 35.2 cm)

John Currin: On Drawing

John Currin, Thanksgiving, 2003, oil on canvas, 68 × 52 inches (172.7 × 132.1 cm)


There is a famous Botticelli painting in the Uffizi that I love of the Virgin and Child with a bunch of singing angels. It’s a big tondo, and it has a slight convexity, a bit of stretching around the image that’s very subtle, and it has this feeling that has always just blown my mind. I also loved M.C. Escher when I was a teenager—I made my first self-portrait when I was sixteen with me reaching toward one of those mirror balls—so I’ve thought for a while about doing a nude in a convex mirror.

John Currin: On Drawing

John Currin, Untitled, c. 2015, graphite on paper, 10 × 8 inches (25.4 × 20.3 cm)

I also thought of it as a kind of reversal or parody of that famous Laura Mulvey essay about the gaze—a disarming of my worries about the creepy invasive male eye. I made three versions of this drawing. This is the one I used for the painting—which ended up on the book cover.

John Currin: On Drawing

John Currin, Nude in a Convex Mirror, 2015, oil on canvas, diameter: 42 inches (106.7 cm)

Artwork © John Currin. Photos by Rob McKeever

John Currin, Memorial, 2020 (detail), oil on canvas, 62 × 40 inches (157.5 × 101.6 cm)

John Currin: Monuments to Lust

Natasha Stagg reports on a trip to John Currin’s New York studio.

Damien Hirst's Reclining Woman on the cover of Gagosian Quarterly, Fall 2021

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2021

The Fall 2021 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Damien Hirst’s Reclining Woman (2011) on its cover.

Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez in their New York studio, 2019.

Fashion and Art: Proenza Schouler

Derek Blasberg speaks with Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, the designers behind the New York fashion brand Proenza Schouler, about their influences and collaborations, from Mark Rothko to Harmony Korine.

The cover of the Spring 2020 edition of the Gagosian Quarterly magazine. A Cindy Sherman photograph of herself dressed as a clown against a rainbow background.

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2020

The Spring 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #412 (2003) on its cover.

John Currin, The Shaving Man, 1993.

Mansplaining: Figuring Masculinity in the Age of #MeToo

In light of recent developments around the definition of masculinity in American culture, Alison M. Gingeras, the curator of John Currin: My Life as a Man at Dallas Contemporary, looks closely at the artist’s depictions of male subjects.

The cover of the Fall 2019 Gagosian Quarterly magazine. Artwork by Nathaniel Mary Quinn

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2019

The Fall 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Sinking (2019) by Nathaniel Mary Quinn on its cover.

Drawing is a First Date

Drawing is a First Date

John Currin speaks with Brett Littman about drawing.

John Currin

In Conversation
John Currin

The artist speaks with Derek Blasberg on Los Angeles, Kippenberger, and his newest body of work.

Takashi Murakami cover and Andreas Gursky cover for Gagosian Quarterly, Summer 2022 magazine

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2022

The Summer 2022 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, with two different covers—featuring Takashi Murakami’s 108 Bonnō MURAKAMI.FLOWERS (2022) and Andreas Gursky’s Viktor & Rolf II (2022).

Mary Weatherford, The Flaying of Marsyas—4500 Triphosphor, 2021–22 (detail), Flashe and neon on linen, 93 × 79 inches (236.2 × 200.7 cm). Photo: Fredrik Nilsen Studio

Mary Weatherford: The Flaying of Marsyas

Coinciding with the 59th Venice Biennale, an exhibition at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani in Venice presents new paintings by Mary Weatherford inspired by Titian’s The Flaying of Marsyas (1570–76). Francine Prose traces the development of these works.

Simon Hantaï cutting out a monumental yellow Tabula (1981), Meun, France, 1995. Artwork © Archives Simon Hantaï/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Antonio Semeraro

Simon Hantaï: Les blancs de la couleur, la couleur du blanc

Anne Baldassari reflects on the art historical influences and radical breaks reflected in the artist’s work with color.

Peter Paul Rubens’s The Massacre of the Innocents (c. 1610)

Spotlight
Peter Paul Rubens

Larry Gagosian reflects on Peter Paul Rubens’s The Massacre of the Innocents (c. 1610).