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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

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.

Helen Frankenthaler in gondola with various friends, Venice, June 1966

Pittura/Panorama: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992

Pittura/Panorama: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992 marks the first time that Frankenthaler’s paintings have been exhibited in Venice since her inclusion in the 1966 Biennale as part of the US Pavilion. This video, including interviews with the show’s curator, John Elderfield; the chairman of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Clifford Ross; and the Foundation’s executive director, Elizabeth Smith, provides viewers with an in-depth look at the fourteen paintings included in the exhibition.

Billy Martin.

Digital Pompeii

Guitarist and legendary composer Marc Ribot and acclaimed percussionist Billy Martin speak with Brett Littman, the director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, about how they met, New York in the 1980s, and the way the visual arts have informed their music.

Uncharted Territory

Uncharted Territory

For the 16th International Architecture Biennale in Venice, the architectural firm Caruso St John teamed up with artist Marcus Taylor to curate the British Pavilion. Their design, Island, offers a profound adjustment of public space at a moment of profound geopolitical change. James Lawrence considers its implications.

Helen Frankenthaler: Sea Change

Helen Frankenthaler: Sea Change

Elizabeth Smith, executive director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, and curator John Elderfield discuss a decade of Frankenthaler’s work on the occasion of her first exhibition of paintings in Rome.

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Book Corner
Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

Wyatt Allgeier discusses the 1984 Arion Press edition of John Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, featuring prints by Richard Avedon, Alex Katz, Elaine and Willem de Kooning, and more.

Claude Picasso and John Richardson

In Conversation
Claude Picasso and John Richardson

Picasso biographer Sir John Richardson sits down with Claude Picasso to discuss Claude’s photography, his enjoyment of vintage car racing, and the future of scholarship related to his father, Pablo Picasso.

The Art of Biography: John Richardson and Jed Perl

In Conversation
The Art of Biography: John Richardson and Jed Perl

Picasso biographer Sir John Richardson sits down with Calder biographer Jed Perl to discuss the dynamism of these two artistic geniuses, the inadequacies of fixed methodologies, and the importance of keeping a fresh perspective.

Mary Weatherford: I’ve Seen Gray Whales Go By

Mary Weatherford: I’ve Seen Gray Whales Go By

Taking viewers behind the scenes during the installation of Mary Weatherford’s I’ve Seen Gray Whales Go By at Gagosian, West 24th Street, New York, this video features interviews with the artist and John Elderfield.

Gus Van Sant

In Conversation
Gus Van Sant

Director Gus Van Sant sits down with Derek Blasberg and discusses his early art influences, life in Los Angeles, and his new feature film Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot.