Friday, March 30, 2012

The Friday Evening Nudes

This week's nudes are a bit more direct and perhaps to some, racier than usual. The images you may see here are among the more tame. If you follow the links, you may find a lot of John Currin's work to be unacceptable for viewing with children, in the workplace or among the prudish.

 With that out of the way, let's discuss a question that is batted about a lot in society...

fine art or high pornography?

The New Yorker - Raw Art


  1. Eye of the beholder-

    Warm Aloha from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral

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  2. I suppose it depends on the intention and the effect. I would classify something of this sort as art if it goes beyond a sexual interest to something more contemplative, something exploring human nature or our conceptions of beauty. But that's just a definition. As a matter of experience, things are a bit more subjective, as Cloudia suggests.

  3. In the first one, the poses are just weird to me, but none of it is porn.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. By all means be subjective, Bryan. What do you think?

  6. Everyone has a different definition of what sex is and everyone has a different idea of what's titillating and what's offensive. Trying to capture the spectrum of sexuality and gender is really difficult.

  7. Is that second one Bea Arthur? O_o

    Agree that poses (esp. first) are strange. Not erotic.

    Not feelin' it (so to speak).

    Hey, Hi Gina! (I've been away from here for awhile)

  8. I like these very much but I haven't followed the link (as yet), so the more hard hitting ones may have a different affect. There is a lot of porn in the world but not much of it can be found in pictures of the naked human form.

  9. What do I think? Hmmm, I think I'd consider the above pictures art, definitely the first and last one. The middle one, I'm not quite so sure about. I don't necessarily see it as porn, but it seems kind of plain in its composition. I'm not sure what it says beyond the nudity. You know what I mean?

  10. I guess that I don't see any of this or what is in the links as pornography. As far as coming up with defining a line between art and porno, I'm at a loss.

  11. Not porn, I think, his eye is too honest for that.

  12. I perhaps didn't make my question to you clear enough. One reason being that I don't always have *the* perfectly composed question to pose. In part because I sometimes, especially with these more ambiguous artists, I am not fully ready to answer the question myself. That is one reason I love and so appreciate your comments.

    My question should probably have been composed more in terms of this particular artist and not the blur between pornography and art in general.

    Having said that I will tell you my take on Currin as I see his work right here, right now.

    From the get-go I didn't really like his work. As Bryan said, what is the point of some of his paintings beyond the nudity? The pornographic ones leave me cold, as does much of pornography, especially the type where people are engaged in sexual acts. So if Currin is trying to make a point about the coldness and detachment of pornography, then I guess he is successful? I just don't see the point.

    Even in his portraits, including one of his young son (if you're interested, just google images of John Currin and you will find plenty to look at)there is a vacant look about the eyes that also leaves me kind of cold. While his body of work is really hip and happening in the New York art scene he is a part of, I see not a whole lot of value to the hype around his success right now. I don't see a museum quality artist here.

    Bryan - thank you for coming back! :-)

  13. JCF - hey, you! I think it's been years since you've left a comment, my friend! Good to see hear from you!

    Yes, the poses are odd but not anything new to my eye, so I did a bit more reading and this is what I found in one article about him just now:

    " Some paintings again turn the male gaze on Mannerism, older women, distorted anatomy, or Upper East Side mores. Most, however, go hard core, often with female coupling and faux Rococo brushwork. Does equating lesbianism with titillation and shock restore a safe, straight male agenda? "

  14. I have just come onilne to be greeted with your delightful selection of Friday nudes! Life painting and drawing has always interested me and is one of my favourite art forms.
    Thank you Gina!

  15. as always your choices are thought provoking, nice to see contemporary nudes and thanks for introducing me to an artist i did not know, hope you are keeping well

  16. I think there is a lot in the three contrasting pictures you present above. It seems to me that Currin is fascinated by our responses to the nude female form and plays with them.

    The first one harks back to paintings of the Renaissance era, Botticelli in particular, in the women's poses and shapes, though the middle one's face & hair seems a bit anachronous.

    The second one looks very sophisticated above the shoulders - the hair, the plucked & emphasized eyebrows, the perfectly balanced expression (amusement, friendliness, but above all an alert sense of power). But then the breasts, without support, without dignity of a blouse, show the woman's body at its most neutral & dispassionate.

    In the third picture, the woman is shown realistically through modern eyes, though accompanied by still life that dates back several centuries - the candlestick, bunch of lemons and the sheet's painted drapery. there's a self-consciousness about the glance, an awkwardness about the pose which one assumes to imply an imminent sexual encounter. there is ambiguity in the woman's anticipation. I can imagine her saying, "You coming or what? I'm starting to get cold here."

    I would say that from these samples, Currin's work has a relation to pornography, in the sense of an indirect critique; for it says to it, "You idealize and distort the female form till it becomes a mind-numbing cliché! Can you not look at the nude through different eyes and see in more dimensions? There are moments, half-hours, in which woman is the irresistible object of sexual desire; and yet you get obsessed with those for your own murky purposes of sensationalism & enrichment. But the female form is far more interesting, and not just from a painterly perspective.

    There is nothing of the art class painter-model relationship in this sample of paintings - trying to reduce the curves & even the pubic bush to pure form & colour. Currin, it seems to me from this small sample, keeps his images completely within the frame of our 21st century context: "Here is the flesh, and it's strange, when you see it outside the cliché, or from a less familiar cultural angle."

    As it is, having seen only these pictures, I admire this artist greatly, as an anti-pornographer I can trust.

  17. JM and Aguja - thanks for coming by!

    Jane - I am keeping; sometimes well and other times floundering but I guess that describes most of us! I like your post today and am quickly becoming a fan of your blog.

    Vincent - wow. I'm impressed both by your intuition on these pieces and your ability to articulate it.

    I think you make some points that are well worth pondering.

    Yes, I see a touch of Botticelli and also, as is quoted above, touches of Mannerism.

    I too noticed the self-consciousness of the model in the third image. She does not look comfortable in her skin.

    I think the way you've analyzed Currin's work could very well be what critics like about it. He's perhaps in his early 40's. It'll be interesting to follow what he does as he matures.

    You will probably be surprised that among my favorite of his more gauche works are the women with the huge bubble gum breasts! I like the kitsch in those. :-)

    Thanks for coming by for this. Your comment added a lot to the thread and to my re-evaluation of this artist.


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