Daily Archives: November 19, 2005

icons of iconoclasm

100 Artists See GodToday I attended the penultimate day of the exhibition called, 100 Artists See God, at the Freedman Gallery of Albright College. It was an occasion in which students from my art class and those of another professor were making a gallery visit. The show turned out to be controversial and spawned much discussion among us on the subjects of ontology, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and politics.Before we entered the gallery, we discussed contemporary art trends that place more significance on the meaning and context of works than upon matters of craft. This is counterintuitive for most students because their prior understanding and appreciation of art is almost entirely visual. It takes some extended thought to see that aesthetics encompasses ideas in perhaps larger measure than it does imagery. However, in the end, we are left with representations of ideas. This may well be because our thoughts are visual more than they are verbal.The curators of this show, Meg Cranston and John Baldessari, indicate the relationship between ontology and epistemology in a statement on the exhibition: “We tried not to have too many preconceptions, except maybe one: we assumed the show would be not so much about beliefs as about representation.”Some artists’ representations of God attempted actual portrayal. The stuffed hermaphroditic being hanging upside-down high up on the gallery wall by Nicolette Pot presents a “conjunctio oppositorum” in more than its compound gender. It hangs as if enslaved, yet soars god-like above us. Edgar Bryan’s, untitled picture presents a homey, even folksy, image of God and his female partner ensconced in their study, where the very human deity composes a universe while planetary models hang from the ceiling.The students’ initial comments concerned the seemingly sacrilegious dimension of many of the works. That is quite understandable, considering works such as Scott Grieger’s Beware of God and Jeremy Deller’s bumper sticker emblazoned with the words, “GOD LESS AMERICA.” The politicalization of everything, which characterizes contemporary secularism is evident in spades here. Because of the particular anti-theist proclivities of the majority of creative folks in Western societies, a large portion of the artworks in this show ridiculed Christianity. This was noted and objected to by our students. For myself, I did not attempt to try to convince them otherwise. My colleague did express the fact that many artists who criticize the status quo, often do so because they intend to call hypocrisy what it is. That may be true, however I am called to point out hypocrisy in creative types more than I am interested in pointing fingers at society-at-large. I choose to operate subversively within the creative community because I do not see sufficient self-criticism among artists these days. In any event, you have one more day (Sunday, November 20) to view 100 Artists See God. After that, I’d recommend the catalog of the exhibition. This show, more than many, is quite adequately represented by its catalog. *Images courtesy of the Freedman Gallery: Nicolette Pot, Doubleplusgood, 2001/2003, cotton, wool, bronze, brass, silver.Scott Grieger, Beware of God, 1996, acrylic on canvas.

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