Guest blog by artist/novelist/thinker Walt Morton:
Yesterday I saw superstar painter JOHN CURRIN talk at the Getty museum.
I was in the audience and asked about pornography in his work.
Somebody had to be the “highest paid art star of his generation of painters” and Currin got lucky.
It’s not all luck, however — he fully leveraged his modest but sincere talent and was in the right-place-right-time. He was only 5% better than Yale contemporaries (Lisa Yuskavage, etc.) but that was enough to go very far. Still, a lot of his success seems an “accidental” result of one small success leading to a larger commercial one.
It helps his career that he presents a likeable public image of a well-spoken, educated and handsome family man with a pretty wife. He has been a hard worker and I give him credit for much more experimentation than I imagined. He is thoughtful and informed on art history, and does have a very personal idea of what a painting should be like, regarding the surface, paint handling, etc.
His most successful idea and the one that made his career is the crashing together of “old European painting aesthetic” and “pornography aesthetic.”
This juxtaposition automatically offered heavy friction between:
old x new
high x low
stuffy x ribald
slick technique x vapid content
canonized x forbidden
museum x junk media (internet, porn mags, catalogs)
The fact that these two traditions are easily understood and he did not have to explain to audiences the two aesthetics before crashing them together was very advantageous.
He did find a personal way to rescue figure painting from a pretty boring tradition.
Interesting to get a technical summary of Currin’s methods. He was very forthcoming and no secrecy on:
— works only on canvas and likes to prime surface himself
— after experimenting with everything, he prefers turpentine & linseed oil as medium.
— he paints with bristle brushes, some sable for blending.
— he uses standard commercial tube paints
— he starts paintings on a dark toned canvas and builds up flesh in layers, essentially identical to the “verdaccio method” outlined here:
— his source materials are posed models but also a lot of “found” photos from clothing catalogs, etc.
— If drawings are anatomically inaccurate, he likes that.
— he believes you have to teach yourself through experimentation, work, practice and find a personal method.
The video of this talk at the Getty museum from which I derive these conclusions is here:
This past weekend, I dragged my ass to see Chef, Jon Favreau’s foray into the “white people problems” movie genre. Bloated, self-indulgent, well-acted, and abysmally structured, Chef is a perfect example of indie filmmaking gone off the rails. It’s a shittier version of Big Night and Ratatouille, with more food porn shots and far less charm. While there are a myriad of problems with Chef, the biggest one is the father-son food truck road trip that’s at the center of the film. The entire trip is emblematic of Favreau’s lazy writing. Spoiler alert! Favreau wants us to believe his protagonist must fly to Miami to buy a food truck. Like there are no fucking food trucks for sale in Los Angeles? Seriously, what the fuck? He gives us a hot Latina ex-wife, a weirdo rich first ex-husband of said ex-wife, and a strained relationship between the chef character of the title and his Twitter-savvy son to explain the trip to Miami and back. These plot machinations don’t make a lick of real world sense. They only happen because the screenwriter needs them to happen to make his story work. Chef is a prime example why so many movies suck nowadays. Stories no longer evolve organically from characters and a well-constructed plot. They are cobbled together half-assed because the writer/director/studio/actor/marketing department wants certain shit to happen, logic be damned. In Favreau’s case, he wants to drive a food truck across America and play the role of big he-man chef. In the end, I suppose things like story structure don’t matter. Chef is a message movie, message being it’s better to work for yourself, scale down your life, live simply, and make Cuban sandwiches for the masses while you bond with your son. You’ll be happier. Until somebody offers you fuck-you money, then by all means, sellout as fast as you can and ditch your food truck dreams. Who knows? Maybe some fat chef in Miami can drive it back from Los Angeles for the sequel.
I recently commented on the Huffington Post review of the Clayton Brothers’s gallery show at the Mark Moore Gallery. In their infinite wisdom, HuffPo decided to take my comment down. Here’s my micro-review and a link to the original HuffPo article:
Are you kidding me? The scribblings of dyslexic three-year-olds are more interesting and thought-provoking than the twaddle presented at the Clayton Brothers’s “Open to the Public” exhibit. The Mark Moore Gallery should be brought up on criminal charges of fraud for passing this shit off as art. That Annabel Osberg praises the show in such excess verbiage is further evidence that the end of culture, art, thought, reason, and taste is here. No intellectual discourse can hide the fact that the Clayton Brothers’s first solo show is eye-blazingly bad. You can polish up a turd, but it’s still a turd. This turd isn’t even polished. Avoid at all costs. We only have limited time on this planet. Don’t waste it here.