John Currin's Embrace of New Eroticism, New Masters Art Is Thrilling, Not Chilling

John Currin, “Constance Towers, 2009”American artist John Currin is showing new work at Manhattan’s Gagosian Gallery, November 4 through December 22, 2010.

John Currin is increasingly known for explicitly erotic flesh tones that might make Hugh Hefner blush — especially when Currin’s focus is increasingly womanly sex without a studmuffin to run the show.

We’ve commented before on Currin’s nearly Biblical references to human sexuality.

The New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman wrote in 1999, mixed “leering, light-headed kitsch, with old-masterish weight as if there were no distinction”. Kimmelman called Currin’s portfolio “a dizzying feat that makes every picture seem wholesome and evil at the same time”.

John Currin, “The Women of Franklin Street”From his Manhattan Soho loft, John Currin explained to The Independent:

“I love grand, classically nude paintings and there is really no situation where plausibly you have criss-crossing limbs and stuff like that except in pornography.” Also fascinating to him, however, was the possibility of bringing his oil-paint grandeur to scenes of cheap copulation.

Currin’s next comment is fascinating to us, as part of our ongoing discussion of fashion photography, nudity and sensual sensationalism. After the women have stripped bare naked, and most photographers are incorporating breasts and occasionally a bare buttock or bikini waxing into the images, what’s next?

“I thought it would be interesting to make them explicit and see if there is any mystery or any space left after you completely drain the potential. It’s like when you don’t show things, you build up a kind of voltage. So what happens if you totally open it up? Is the painting going to have any kind of energy at all? In a way, these are very unsexual paintings.”

As a woman, I don’t agree with Currin that his paintings become asexual. To me they are more female-centric. I see the beauty of an openly expressed sensuality that may no longer be titillating in a Terry Richardson, porn-bad-boy style. Instead, Currin offers us an integrated sensuality that is liberating and frankly sexual.

We want to condemn his women, but the more brain scans show us about female sexual behavior, it’s no wonder that we’re deeply torn between religious demands for modesty and our natural desires. It’s each woman’s right to make peace with this duality on her own terms, and not be flogged into submission.

John Currin continues his March 2008 interview The Filth and the Fury, tapping into the same consciousness that motivates much of our writing at Anne of Carversville.

Like ours, his anger ebbs and flows over what Currin calls his digust of “Islamic fascism” — the assertion that the West is morally bankrupt because of our lack of morality.

John Currin, “Hot Pants, 2010”The artist’s journey into explicit nudity and entangled limbs resulted from the 2005 Danish cartoon ‘incident’ that unleashed staggering anti-West protests worldwide. Watching the Frontline show with hundreds of thousands of clamoring Muslims worldwide was frankly frightening, chilling and a reminder that the world is a powder keg.

Unlike Currin’s more singular focus on Sept. 11 and the Danish cartoon publication, Anne of Carversville quickly moved to include all religious fundamentalism as the danger to modern, peaceful and productive societies.

John Currin, “Big Hands 2010”When Pope Benedict lashed out at secular Spaniards this weekend, comparing them to Franco before stating that Spain should become the battleground for the faithful, we seriously question if he’s making a call to arms, and a renewal of the Crusades that unleashed bloodshed all over Europe and the Middle East.

John Currin’s paintings reflect the cultural currency of our times, yet he is a sensualist committed to creating beauty in his art. The total engagement our readers have with nudity, sensuality, religion, morality, philanthropy and global politics affirms that Currin has tapped into the emerging mood, one we call New Eroticism.

In his pursuit of old-masters techniques and the grandeur of beautiful skin, Currin aligns himself with the less constrictive sexuality of art that is centuries old.  Art has struggled with sensual expression and power — and especially in the female body — with the rise of monotheism.

We view Currin’s current works not only as full of sensual vitality, but as a rejection of America’s purely pornographic, breast-fixated, one-dimensional bombshell obsession with female bodies.

Terry Richardson’s style is looking oh-so-empty, now that it’s mainstream.

By contrast, John Currin as a painter, and many photographers of both genders, are increasingly unleashed and perhaps unconsciously defiant in pursuing a more nuanced, sympathetic and intuitively beautiful exploration of cultural mores and its impact on the human body.

John Currin, “Mademoiselle 2009”The obessesion with controlling and denigrating women’s natural sexuality is perhaps the greatest scourge to planet Earth.

We reject this patriarchal, primarily religious demand absolutely and work daily to connect the dots of all its ramifications — not only on women’s lives, reproductive and maternal health in developing countries and female self-image, but also on global health, environmental action, philanthropy and the desires of ethical, kind and caring, secular people to live a life based on ‘positive values’ worldwide.

Indeed, Smart Sensuality people do have a conflict of values with fundamentalism and orthodoxy, and we stand in our own secular judgment against these life-negating, hypocritical, patriarchal self-interested forces worldwide. Anne

More reading:

Kanye West | John Currin’s Boldly Moral Sensuality

Controlling Women’s Bodies Is a Fight to the Finish

John Currin & Rachel Feinstein | Voluptuous Love