• John Currin, The Producer, 2002.

    John Currin, The Producer, 2002.

    John Currin

    New Museum
    235 Bowery
    May 3–August 24, 2003

    Serpentine Galleries
    Kensington Gardens
    September 9–November 2, 2003

    Whitney Museum of American Art
    99 Gansevoort Street
    November 20, 2003–February 22, 2004

    It’s been twelve years since Village Voice critic Kim Levin urged readers to “boycott” the “awful paintings” in John Currin’s first gallery show. Now, the full range of Currin’s provocations—smiling divorcées, coeds, neo-Mannerist nudes, and rosy-cheeked gay couples—are on view in a midcareer retrospective organized by MCA associate curator Staci Boris and Serpentine chief curator Rochelle Steiner. In the catalogue (which includes essays by Boris and Robert Rosenblum), Currin muses ruefully about Cosmopolitan, Scrabble, and his own conservatism: “Basically, I enjoy normality in art. I like boring things, or I like pretty things.”

  • Pretzel Vendor, 1929

    Pretzel Vendor, 1929

    American Expressionism

    Columbus Museum of Art
    480 East Broad Street
    May 23–August 31, 2003

    Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University
    40 Arts Circle Drive
    January 30–May 9, 2004

    Portland Art Museum
    1219 SW Park Avenue
    September 26, 2003–January 4, 2004

    Will the ever-turning wheels of revisionism soon replace AbEx with AmEx? If cultural historian Bram Dijkstra has his way, the answer may be yes. Dijkstra has come up with something called American Expressionism, a mood of anxiety and despair that agitated the works of countless artists from the ’20s through the ’50s. Complementing the usual historical accounts (the ascendancy of abstract art, the collective faith in social and technological progress, the flight into regionalism), this new version offers a grim panorama of America’s underbelly. Some names are familiar, but dozens of others should have even specialists reaching for their reference books.