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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, 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.

Cover of the Winter 2019 Gagosian Quarterly, featuring a selection from a black-and-white Christopher Wool photograph

Now available
Gagosian Quarterly Winter 2019

The Winter 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a selection from Christopher Wool’s Westtexaspsychosculpture series on its cover.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman's face by Dora Maar.

Discovering Dora Maar

Brigitte Benkemoun’s book Je suis le carnet de Dora Maar takes a novel approach to the art of biography. For the Quarterly, Benkemoun recounts her discovery of a mysterious Hermès address book, the subsequent realization of its genius former owner, and her journey to learn more about the life, friends, and art of Dora Maar.

Rachel Feinstein in her West 15th Street studio, New York, 2002.

Rachel Feinstein

The artist discusses her life and work with Alan Yentob.

Artist Nam June Paik writing on his typewriter in black and white photo.

Reading Nam June Paik

Earlier this year, MIT Press released We Are in Open Circuits: Writings by Nam June Paik. Here Gregory Zinman, coeditor of the book along with John Hanhardt and Edith Decker-Phillips, writes about his first exposure to the artist’s archives, the discoveries made there, and the relationship between Paik’s writings and his larger practice.

Richard Serra, Hands Scraping, 1968, film still.

The Art of Perception: Richard Serra’s Films

For eleven years, from 1968 to 1979, Richard Serra created a collection of films and videos that felt out the uncharted phenomenological boundaries of the medium. Carlos Valladares explores a selection of these works.

Jerry Schatzberg, Self Portrait in the Mirror, Trinidad, 1964.

The Center of the Storm

Carlos Valladares writes on filmmaker and photographer Jerry Schatzberg’s prolific career.

Helen Frankenthaler, Riverhead, 1963 (detail).

Frankenthaler

On the occasion of the exhibition Pittura/Panorama: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992, at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani in Venice, Italy, art historians John Elderfield and Pepe Karmel discuss the concept of the panorama in relation to the artist’s work. Their conversation traces developments in Frankenthaler’s approach to composition, the boundaries and conventions of abstraction, and how, in many ways, her career continually challenged established theories of art history.

Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Brooklyn, New York, 2019.

Nathaniel Mary Quinn

Anderson Cooper spoke with the artist at his Brooklyn studio about his childhood and the visionary nature of his art.