|Yoko Ono's Wish Trees at Serpentine Gallery|
John Currin has enjoyed much controversial attention with his kitschy female nudes that mix pornography and art history. His new series of paintings, more Beryl Cook than Cranach, are on show at Sadie Coles HQ. The majority are painted directly from life resulting in less caricature and more realistically detailed, natural-looking faces and alluring gazes. Women, with an abundance of milky white, flawless flesh, and draped with pearls, lounge seductively over sumptuous silk cloths.
|John Currin, 'Gold Coast', 2012|
from Sadie Coles website
The Wild the Beautiful and the Damned at Hampton Court Palace could provide the type of soft-core, historical erotica that Currin pokes at. Provocative portraiture includes the alluring teenage gazes of Peter Lely’s Windsor Beauties or Godfrey Kneller’s Hampton Court Beauties alongside mythological seductresses, thereby conflating real portraits with lurid fantasy.
|Frances Stuart, Peter Lely, c1662|
|'Cleopatra', Benedetto Gennari, c1674-5|
But Currin’s paintings are explicit. Everything is revealed; alluring, sweet smiles are cut through with fingered labias and pubic hair and there is a particularly creepy painting called Lake Place, described as a modern day Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe.
|John Currin, 'Lake Place', 2012|
from Sadie Coles website
Currin is easy to write-off. Some of his imagery is knowingly and provocatively un-pc and engages our moral compass. He describes himself as an American tourist in the tradition of European painting and is the first to admit a self-conscious lack of elegance and grace, no matter how good he can paint. Currin has said that one of the joys of figuration is that it was never progressive, unlike severe modernist movements that had to be progressive with a social message. Figuration is hopelessly retrograde and doesn’t speak to the future or have that burden. But it is something that people love to do, and so it will endure. The question of it’s relevance today is at the heart of another exhibition, Perfect Nude, which opened for it’s third incarnation at Charlie Smith last night.
|Alexis Harding, 'Nude's Hole', 2012|
Dan Coombs and Phillip Allen asked 100 artists to make paintings of the nude. Released from the responsibility for choosing their subject, the artists have taken up the challenge and the result is visually complex, revealing a wide range of processes, attitudes and narratives that leap from the delicately raw in Emma Talbot’s Nude, to pink, puckered skin in Alexis Harding’s Nude’s Hole.
|Emma Talbot, 'Nude', 2012|