The Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York has put up a show of new paintings by John Currin, perhaps best known for his show a few years back at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art, in which he depicted very big-breasted women and very lascivious men in a cartoonish yet "hauntingly real" way. Critics lauded Currin's almost classical technique in painting figures. The contrast of classical technique and '70s porn characterization created tension.
I went to the Whitney show like everyone else and kind of found it interesting. James took me to this latest exhibition and boy, am I sorry (James is no fan either, of course). Taken from images in old pornographic magazines, the paintings in this new show depict women's private parts in a very crude manner. Women are engaged in raw sex acts with other women and some men. James says Currin wants to become the Norman Rockwell to the 1970s. The painter seems purposely to objectify women in order to...in order to...I do not know.
The occasion this evening was a book signing for a new Currin catalogue out from Rizzoli. Currin and wife were situated in a side room. I kind of fled from the images into the reception area, where three extremely made up galleristas were receiving guests (though there were not that many, apparently to their chagrin, since one said into the phone, "yeah, it's slow"). The young women each had slinked into a tight, short-sleeved dress in colors ranging from plum to wine. They had swept their hair up or pulled it back, applied much eyeliner, and pulled on fishnet stockings. They towered in heels and poured on the charm to a banker who requested a catalog. (Question: who buys John Currin catalogs? Answer: dirty old men).
The images of sex and the coquettish hostesses made me wonder, why does sex attach itself to the art world and flee from the literary world? Perhaps because money attracts sex and the literary world does not attract money? Alls I know is when I attend a reading at the 92nd Street Y I do not feel the heady buzz of hormones that I do at a gallery opening. Perhaps because visual artists are flamboyant and writers reserved, which translates into loud versus quiet sexuality?