PaperCity Magazine

September 2019- Houston

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Then there's a painting of Jesus Christ in the show — is that your portrait? Yes, the oil drawing with the mustache. Part of me thinks it's funny. It's meant to amuse myself. If you're a painter, it's also one of the great images to paint. You can paint Jesus, you can paint naked ladies, you can paint a beautiful waterfall. There are certain things that are just meant to be painted. I was reflecting on how that could be an image made now. What does it look like to have a regular-looking guy, instead of Jesus, on a cross. It wasn't meant to be blasphemy or mockery — it was more a kind of comment on the ridiculousness of painting figuratively nowadays. And just to amuse myself, and see what it would look like. Let's finish up with The Jackass. Those were ads in Playboy magazine. They showed a handsome, successful guy with women adoring him. I didn't really invent those things — they're works of art in their own right by the production designer and the photographer — but I did think it would be interesting to make all the women hate the guy instead of loving him. The image of a completely unperturbed man being hated rather than being adored. What was it like to time travel and see all your early works come together for this show. I recently did a show with Gagosian Gallery of my sketchbooks through the years. It was just after my father passed away. It was one of those weird, reflective times. And just seeing things I hadn't laid eyes on in 20 years was a very strange experience. Any show of your old work carries that kind of hazard, and interest, and gift. Then my mother died. So I'm in the mode of thinking about my childhood. And I've been talking to my wife about this. She's been reading Carl Jung a lot, and she's trying to get me to read it. Your father was a physics professor and your mother a piano teacher. Were they pleased you became an artist. Yes, I think they were happy. To some extent, I realized this after they both died: They were an important part of my audience, in a strange way, both in a positive and negative way. I was trying to please them and trying to anger them at the same time. I didn't realize how much my motivations had been colored by what I perceived their reaction would be — whether they would hate it or love it or be ashamed of it or be proud of it. On your practice and the provocative. Much of my motive when I'm making a painting is to recapture that sense of surprise in an image when you were a child. That's one way of explaining why I've done a number of socially provocative things. They were really just to surprise myself and to recapture that wonder of childhood. That includes frightening images, unpleasant images, pornographic images, mean-spirited images, all kinds of things. In some ways, as an artist, you try to surprise yourself with images in the same way they surprised when you were a child. That to me is one of the motivations in exploring sexual things. I'm not making a comment on society's sexuality; I'm exploring my own feelings. I don't have any special knowledge, apart from being a person. And, in terms of speaking to people who have asked me about #MeToo … Being neither a victim nor a perpetrator, I don't think I have anything interesting or important to say. I would offer that I think the sexual revolution that started in the '50s and '60s has reached a milestone and is either reversing or something happened. I think it is very, very big. Much too big for me to understand. That's another reason I have an urge to make pictures — to ruminate over these kind of things. Your plans for when you're in Dallas for the opening. I don't know if my family's coming, because they have to start school. I don't know if I want to disrupt them. I'll probably be with Rachel, my wife. I'm just hoping the show is good. If I sleep in a sleeping bag in a closet, I just want the show to be beautiful. You've exhibited at the Frans Hals Museum in the Netherlands, juxtaposed with Dutch Golden Age painter Cornelis van Haarlem. What would be your next dream pairing from art history? Oh brother. My ambitions are more centered on making paintings. What happens after I make them is up to whether people like them or not. My big dream is to make a beautiful painting. Exhibiting is kind of a privilege after that. My ambition is what I'm going to make, rather than where I'm going to show it. Most surprising about you. Oh gosh, I'm actually really, really, really focused on painting. I think I'm pretty boring outside of that. I like fast cars, and I like old movies, but basically it's all painting all the time. "John Currin: My Life as a Man," September 15 – December 22, at Dallas Contemporary, 48 JOHN CURRIN'S THE JACKASS (GUY IN FUR WITH BABE SLED), 1997. 8 ¼" X 8". HEITHOFF FAMILY COLLECTION. © JOHN CURRIN. COURTESY GAGOSIAN. John Currin's The Jackass (Guy in Fur with Babe Sled), 1997, at Dallas Contemporary

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