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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 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.

Henri Matisse, The Music Lesson, 1917, oil on canvas, domestic interior scene of people in the livingroom at the piano, reading chair, and window

Lockdown: Henri Matisse’s Domestic Interiors

John Elderfield reexamines Matisse’s Piano Lesson (1916) and Music Lesson (1917), considering the works’ depictions of domestic space during the tumult of World War I.

Photo: Moneta Sleet, Jr., 1965. Johnson Publishing Company Archive. Courtesy Ford Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Smithsonian Institution.

Theaster Gates: Black Image Corporation

As a prelude to his first-ever solo exhibition in New York, Theaster Gates discusses his prescient work with the photographic archive of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company and his formation of Black Image Corporation as a conceptual project. In conversation with Louise Neri, he expands on his strategies as artist and social innovator in his quest to redeem and renew the sacred power of Black images and Black space. 

Andy Warhol catalogue. Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1965.

Book Corner
On Collecting with Norman Diekman

Rare-book expert Douglas Flamm speaks with designer Norman Diekman about his unique collection of books on art and architecture. Diekman describes his first plunge into book collecting, the history behind it, and the way his passion for collecting grew.

Andy Warhol cover design for the magazine Aspen 1, no. 3.

Artists’ Magazines

Gwen Allen recounts her discovery of cutting-edge artists’ magazines from the 1960s and 1970s and explores the roots and implications of these singular publications.

Left: Gabriella Calandro; right: Kathleen Flynn.

Emergency Arts Funding: Grants for United States Artists and Arts Workers

Gabriella Calandro, director of grants and curatorial affairs at the New York Foundation for the Arts, and Kathleen Flynn, deputy director of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, speak with Gagosian director Kara Vander Weg about relief funding administered by their organizations for artists and arts workers in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Black-and-white photograph of Alexander Calder and Margaret French dancing on a cobblestone street while Louisa Calder plays the accordion in front of a large window outside of James Thrall Soby’s house, Farmington, Connecticut, 1936

An Alphabetical Guide to Calder and Dance

Jed Perl takes a look at Alexander Calder’s lifelong fascination with dance and its relationship to his reimagining of sculpture.

Damien Hirst, Happiness, 1993–94, oil on canvas, 24 × 17 ⅞ inches.

Damien Hirst: Visual Candy

James Fox considers the origins of Damien Hirst’s Visual Candy paintings on the occasion of a recent exhibition of these early works in Hong Kong.