Is John Currin an important painter?

I don’t think he’s succeeding at being all that incisive and clever with his quasi-classical grotesque morphs of American life, but tastes vary. The British seem to like his take on “crass” Americans. For me, it seems more like cartoon commentary on run of the mill social absurdities than high art. Am I missing his deeper or larger point somehow?
A touch of crass at London’s Serpentine Gallery.

Do his paintings pass the “is it art?” test? To me, yes - the paintings create a tension in my mind and I find myself asking questions about who the character is and what they are like and thinking about and what Currin was intending - all good stuff that art should do - raise questions and make me think.

Is his art important? Certainly not in the way that other art has been important in the past - it hasn’t raised questions that have crossed over to the public discourse. The questions his paintings raise seem to be along the lines of what you surmise - what is he stating about our society and certain classes and types of people within it? Worthy questions, but not Important in the capital “I” sense of the word to me…

I’d agree with WordMan (as I always seem to do…) – Currin is interesting but not important. Interesting in the sense that he’s technically very competent and does stuff that I always want to stop and look carefully at – but not important, in the sense that I don’t know his name, and instead always go “oh, right, that guy.”

::blushes:: awww, shucks.

I saw his show at the Whitney several months back, and was not terribly impressed.

He’s not nearly as interesting a satirist, or realist painter, as a Paul Cadmus or a Geroge Tooker.

I’d put him on a par with an illustrator like Charles Bragg.

I think he’s a little better than Bragg (whose work I’ve never seen before) – he seems a trifle less obvious.

A better question may be, “Is painting important any more?”

Re: Currin, I think he’s interesting, and agree that from a technical standpoint he’s pretty good, but I don’t see much in his work that one cannot see in, say, the work of illustrators of the covers of pulp novels of the 40s and 50s. I would rate him important only in the sense of injecting a bit of life into what seems to be a dying form. That’s not intended as a backhanded slam, BTW; I’m always happy to see his work, and think he adds something to his subjects that would be very difficult to get across with a more photorealistic approach.

Is painting really a dying form?

Dying? Probably not.

Marginalized to a cult-like set of practitioners and passionate patrons? Probably.

Don’t you think that is happening with:

  • Poetry
  • Opera
  • Classical Music in general
  • Literature

etc., etc., etc.? How often is a true genius in one of these arts crossing over and being acknowledge in a standard media forum - let alone being lauded as a cultural influence - compared to how they used to be decades and centuries ago?

Even as late as the 1960’s, with Pop Art - the debate of the nature of paintings and modern art seemed culturally relevant and important. I don’t see that happening today…

I was referring to representational painting in general, and portraiture specifically. Yeah, a lot of people do it, but in terms of artistic innovation, there doesn’t seem to be much left to accomplish.