December 02, 2015

The Sacred and the Pop

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Pope Francis would have loved her. Sister Mary Corita Kent (1918-1986) was an alembic—a distiller of the visual, spiritual, intellectual and social, who found and illuminated the spiritual in making art. A Catholic nun, inspiring art teacher at Immaculate Heart College, and social activist, propelled by the reforms of Vatican II, Sister Corita was a pop artist. Her vibrant, graphic silk screened prints of the 1960’s and ’70’s weave popular advertising slogans with the more resonant texts of Daniel Berrigan, e e cummings, Thomas Merton—among others— to produce a body of work that invites closer inspection, and then introspection. The meaning of language she extracted from the commercial realm is exalted in her art.

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I made an exhilarating daytrip to Boston to see (before it closes January 3, 2016),
“Corita Kent and the Language of Pop,”
at the Fogg. Well-documented, the exhibit features more than 60 of her screen prints, alongside pieces by mostly male pop artists of her time, with some gems by Lichtenstein, Rosenquist and Ruscha.

imageimageimageOf special significance, on display was a coffee can-sized maquette of Corita’s gargantuan public art icon, the rainbow splashed gas tank outside of Boston. Slide images and videos are powerful testimony to Sister Corita’s social activism in Mary’s Day art be-ins, her art instruction methodology and rapport with students. I wish I could have studied with her.

 

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