Currin’s dialectic of beauty and grotesquerie, desire and disgust, classicism and crud.
John Currin’s paintings are the signal American art works of today. What this says about us isn’t flattering, but there are wisps of hope in it. Masterly new canvases at Gagosian uptown expand the range of Currin’s dialectic of beauty and grotesquerie, desire and disgust, classicism and crud. The show is long on pornography: threesomes and twosomes (mostly female), grimly toiling to display the mechanics of sex. You get that they have minds (of a sort) at odds with their actions. Clothed, fatuous social types include two heroically posed, pregnant, haute-suburban young dames who face the future with exasperating confidence. Even still-life elements—candelabras, antique china—emit incautious attitude. Currin’s skills, now enhanced with positively Venetian color, insure that if it’s too late in your life to stop liking painting you’re sunk; he has you. With love and loathing, his art unites aspects of disintegrated contemporary selfhood in magnetic fields of imagination. Is real wholeness possible? Two straightforwardly ravishing portraits of the artist’s young son dare to wonder.