Magazine article The New Yorker

Checkered

Magazine article The New Yorker

Checkered

Article excerpt

CHECKERED

--Tad Friend

Weaving backward, two docents in dark couture led Harmony Korine through the white labyrinth of offices and private exhibition areas at the Gagosian Gallery on Park Avenue. Korine's first big solo show, "Shooters," was about to open in the gallery's space, and he kept remarking that he'd just got off the plane from Nashville. His hazel eyes were wide, and he held his arms out with his fingers spread, like a small boy boarding an escalator.

He stopped before a jaunty red canvas and asked, "What's the title on that one?" He'd only recently, and hastily, titled his pieces. Virginia Coleman, in brown, said, "Chrissie?" Chrissie Erpf, in black, purred, " 'The Zooter.' "

"Zooters are potheads," Korine explained.

He examined "Tornado Check," a large canvas covered with a checkerboard of tiny, woozy, red and white squares. "The paint's still wet on this one," he said. "I use whatever the Salvation Army leaves out--house paint and hairbrushes and steak knives and squeegees--and I might toss the canvas in the yard and stomp on it. There are three or four paintings underneath here--these weird dogs, a mushroom cloud, and a caveman. I started to feel bored with it and put it aside for a few years." The hovering women smiled understandingly. "Then, finally, I got into this whole checking madness, because I've long been interested in loops, mistakes, trancey repetition. It's like writing a novel with pages missing in all the right places."

Korine, a scruffy yet tidy child of the counterculture--the writer Jim Carroll cut his umbilical cord--still bears tattoos from his skateboard gang, but now that he's forty his beard is daubed with gray. He came to notice as the writer of the 1995 film "Kids," about feral tweens, but is best known as the writer-director of "Spring Breakers" (2012), a trancey, boobs-saturated meditation on feral college girls who head to Florida for fun and instead meet James Franco. All the while, though, he was painting. A year ago, when his studio grew overstuffed, he began inviting other artists to take a look, and soon Larry Gagosian was on the phone.

Korine halted in front of a disturbing image half smeared over with black paint. " 'The Kotzur Gift,' " Erpf murmured. He said, "It's from a still from my film 'Trash Humpers' that creeped me out, of Brian Kotzur sitting on a toilet. That's actually my wife there"--he pointed to a figure in an ancient-Greek-crone mask. "Our daughter was just six months old, and when she saw her mother pull her face off she went crazy. …

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