Gagosian Quarterly

March 16, 2022

In Conversation

Harmony KorineAnd Rita Ackermann

The artists chat about Korine’s luminous new paintings based on teddy bears, touching upon the color yellow, the fresh smell of gas, and the relationship among presidents, golf, and little stuffed animals.

Harmony Korine, DoDo Bear, 2021, acrylic, house paint, and oil stick on canvas, 47 × 46 inches (119.4 × 116.8 cm)

Harmony Korine, DoDo Bear, 2021, acrylic, house paint, and oil stick on canvas, 47 × 46 inches (119.4 × 116.8 cm)

Rita Ackermann

Rita Ackermann is a Hungarian-American artist currently based in New York City. Her depictions of New Yorks downtown culture in the mid-1990s first brought attention to her work. Ackermanns paintings, drawings, and collages combine Neo-Expressionist and figurative elements. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, Florida; Ludwig Museum, Budapest; Triennale di Milano; and Swiss Institute, New York.

Harmony Korine

Harmony Korine is a film director, screenwriter, and artist who rose to prominence after penning the film Kids (1995). In the years since, he has created critically acclaimed cult classics, including Gummo (1997), Mister Lonely (2007), and Spring Breakers (2012), as well as the lauded street-art documentary Beautiful Losers (2008). Korine’s creative practice extends to photography, drawing, and figurative and abstract painting.

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Rita AckermannAre your bears modeled after the Michelin guy?

Harmony KorineNo, but I like the connection. They have a similar body type. Like a busted bag of donuts.

RATheyve got those tire-like muscles for arms.

HKYes. Im a fan of competitive arm wrestling. My favorite arm wrestler of all time was Cleve Dean. I based the body and style of the teddy bear paintings on Cleves vibe. He was from Georgia and could palm a baby sheep in one hand. He was known as the “arm breaker, but all who knew him loved him. He was a teddy bear.

RAI used to love the Michelin guy when I was a kid.

HKYeah. The Michelin guy was a eunuch and a gas-huffer.

RADid you like trucks, gas stations, and the smell of gas when you were a kid? I got high on the smell of fresh gas . . . and nauseated right away.

HKYes, in the ’80s at a monster truck camp I went to in Daytona, I huffed a bag full of white-out and gas and it made me pass out.

RAWhen is the best time for you to catch ideas?

HKMostly while fishing or on the gun range.

RADo you paint while fishing?

HKNo, I can’t do both at once. But last year I caught a small teddy bear while fishing next to Fisher Island. I hooked its leg real good. That’s how I got the idea to paint it. It was so cute and it kept floating. You can’t kill those little bastards. They are eternal.

Your teddy bear paintings go deep . . . They are Van Goghian, worshiping the light and the sun.

Rita Ackermann
Harmony Korine and Rita Ackermann

Harmony Korine, Huffy Bear, 2021, acrylic, house paint, and oil stick on canvas, 37 × 32 inches (94 × 81.3 cm)

RAWhat is your favorite color?

HKI love yellow. And neon yellow is the best. Lights up the world.

RAMy favorite color is yellow too! Your teddy bear paintings go deep, deeper than any other paintings I see . . . They are Van Goghian, worshiping the light and the sun. 

Do you find that buttons can be elemental in a painting?

these teddy bear paintings couldn’t exist without buttons. Buttons are the punctuation marks of clothing.

Harmony Korine

HKYeah, these teddy bear paintings couldnt exist without buttons. Buttons are the punctuation marks of clothing. The term “cute as a button” was popularized by Shirley Temple. I once saw a picture of Shirley Temple drinking a Shirley Temple; it was amazing to witness.

RAThere is no good painting without buttons, I think . . .


RAAre your teddies radiating?

HKYes, I try to make them radiate. I wish there was a way to insert actual radiation into the paint.

RACan we consider the teddy bear paintings a new chapter after the president paintings?

HKYes, a new chapter in comedy art. I’ve actually been thinking about having teddy bears playing golf.

Harmony Korine and Rita Ackermann

Harmony Korine, 37, 2019–21, oil on canvas, 73 × 61 inches (185.4 × 154.9 cm)

RAWhat are the connections between the presidents and the bears?

HK I wanted to paint presidents playing golf because I couldn’t believe how every president just keeps playing golf—no matter what happens in life, they play golf. It’s the most significant pastime for a president. I began to investigate why many golfers also begin sleeping with teddy bears later in life. I know a famous caddy from Delaware who claims that all the local golf pros sleep with teddy bears. There is a crossover at work, something most people are unaware of.

RAAre these teddies friendly golems to protect us from propaganda?

HKI think theyre mostly happy. They have never read a newspaper. They reject the metaverse. They don’t use human growth hormones. They seem religious. Mostly sweet.

RADamn, our conversation makes me love these teddies even more!

No wonder we get along so well with paintings . . . Send me back quick those paintings we are working on together and don’t forget to put some teddies in there with hook arms.

Artwork © Harmony Korine

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.

Announcement for the film The Beach Bum (2019) by Harmony Korine.

Transcendent Criminal Dream

From Kids to his new film The Beach Bum, Harmony Korine has continually revolutionized the art of cinema. In a wide-ranging discussion with film critic Emmanuel Burdeau, Korine reflects on the rewards and challenges of filmmaking and reveals what’s in store for the future.

Harmony Korine: BLOCKBUSTER

Harmony Korine: BLOCKBUSTER

The artist discusses his latest exhibition in New York with the Gagosian Quarterly, telling the story behind the works and their connection to his larger practice.

Harmony Korine at the Centre Pompidou

Harmony Korine at the Centre Pompidou

The artist sat down with Alicia Knock, curator of his exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, to discuss the power of mistakes, outsiders, and the marginal.

Artist Richard Wright sits looking at something outside the frame

In Conversation
Richard Wright and Martin Clark

Richard Wright and Martin Clark, director of Camden Art Centre, London, discuss Wright’s latest body of work, recent commissions, and new monograph, which provides a comprehensive overview of his practice between 2010 and 2020.

Carol Armstrong and John Elderfield seated in front of a painting by Helen Frankenthaler

In Conversation
Carol Armstrong and John Elderfield

In conjunction with the exhibition Drawing within Nature: Paintings from the 1990s at Gagosian in New York, Carol Armstrong and John Elderfield discuss Helen Frankenthaler’s paintings and large-scale works on paper dating from 1990 to 1995.

Louise Bonnet in front of her painting

In Conversation
Louise Bonnet, Johanna Burton, and Celinda M. Vázquez

Join Gagosian for a panel discussion with Louise Bonnet; Johanna Burton, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Celinda M. Vázquez, chief external affairs officer of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (PPLA), on the occasion of Bonnet’s donation to PPLA of the proceeds from the sale of her painting Red Study (2022).

Adam McEwen and Ian Penman seated in yellow chairs

In Conversation
Adam McEwen and Ian Penman

In conjunction with his exhibitions Adam McEwen at Gagosian in London, and Adam McEwen: XXIII at Gagosian in Rome, the artist sits down with author Ian Penman to discuss his new obituary works and graphite sculptures.

Marc Newson and Ruth Rogers

In Conversation
Ruth Rogers and Marc Newson

Marc Newson joins restaurateur Ruth Rogers to discuss the compendium of topics he selected for a special supplement he guest-edited for the Spring 2023 issue of the Quarterly.

Michael Govan and Anselm Kiefer

In Conversation
Anselm Kiefer and Michael Govan

On the occasion of his exhibition Anselm Kiefer: Exodus at Gagosian at Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles, the artist spoke with Michael Govan about his works that elaborate on themes of loss, history, and redemption.

Tyler Mitchell and Zoé Whitley

In Conversation
Tyler Mitchell and Zoé Whitley

Tyler Mitchell sat down with Zoé Whitley, director at Chisenhale Gallery in London, for a conversation as part of Frieze Masters Talks and in partnership with Gagosian. The two discussed Mitchell’s first solo presentation in London and with the gallery, Chrysalis, on view earlier this fall at Gagosian, Davies Street, London, and a special commission for Frieze Masters 2022 that reflected on his conceptual and editorial photography practices. His work reinterprets the tropes employed in both the Western canon of portraiture and the contemporary fashion magazine.