Art and Religion

I’ve been interested in the relationship between art and religion for a while now. This is not least in part because I grew up in an art-starved religiously conservative environment.

I do think it’s an interesting topic and one that has only recently seemed to gain acceptability in the gallery scene.

Take the recent religious bend of artworld bad boy Damien Hirst. His recent exhibition at Wallspace kicked off a line of references to Christian iconography I was surprised to see him interested in. It also seems to indicate a lowering of the hackles of contemporary art when it comes to addressing religion from anything but a purely sarcastic or condemning perspective – witness Gilbert and George taking on religion last year.

What I like is a growing sense that religion, and Christianity specifically, seems to be finally allowed as a valid discussion in contemporary art. I know it’s not universal, but it seems to be a long time coming. Not that Christians haven’t given the art world something to be angry about in the last 30 years.

I think it was still relatively obscure when Christian Jankowski had this Holy Artwork in the Whitney Biennial back in 2002.

What prompted this post is this conversation from PaintersNYC about a show at Max Protech Gallery called Unfathom. Granted, the blog conversation can be frustrating, but I was intrigued that people didn’t really seem to think much about the religious undertones of the show while the images on the site seemed to really provoke notions of the other or transcendence or Christianity, specifically.

I’m familiar with Christian artists being ghetto-ized and stuck in organizations like CIVA and IAM.  Not that they aren’t helpful or valuable, but it seems to be difficult for them to operate outside of themselves – in the secular art world.  What I’m hoping for is an openness to the conversation surrounding Christianity that can include Christians.  What I’m hoping for are Christians making art good enough to be compelling to people who aren’t looking for “Christian art.”  Maybe I’m just always looking for interesting Christians making art.

So I’m off to see the show first hand. I’ll keep you posted.

-W

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