I went to Montreal last weekend to visit my friend Chandler Levack and to see a show by one of my favourite contemporary artists, John Currin, at the impressive DHC/Art Foundation. (Each subsequent trip to Montreal is a reminder to me of how lacking in spacious, theatrical locales for art Toronto is. Le sigh.) My review on Currin’s show was published on Thursday on Canadian Art‘s website. There is so much more to say, and I find it endlessly intriguing how calmly reticent Currin remains about his own practice, where, in contrast, so many artists about whom one struggles to find any analytical thoughts/words can’t stop vociferating.
The day after I saw Currin’s show, I had a studio visit with the excellent Janet Werner, who went to Yale with him, and is acquainted with him and his mesmerizing wife and muse, Rachel Feinstein. (Werner herself has painted her.) Werner told me that, at his recent DHC/Art talk, Currin was asked about his interest in contemporary art. His response? “That’s like asking a basketball player, ‘What about golf?'”
In his unsung 1957 study/lecture The Shape of Content, artist-philosopher Ben Shahn says, “There are, roughly, about three conditions that seem to be basic in the artist’s equipment: to be cultured, to be educated, and to be integrated.” I am increasingly intrigued by artists who are choosing to downplay integration—purposefully connecting oneself with a community of artists—because it has become such an overwhelming, aggressive aspect of artist practice over the past 40 years, at the great expense of culture and education. Said Werner in response to Currin’s statement, “Perfect, but, not being in academia, he can afford this luxury (among many others).”