Artistic Pretension

Special Pleading/Christian Artists

Identity politics, a cancer on the body politic, is corrosive in the arts as well. All the more disconcerting, then, to find Christian artists recycling a self-indulgent pose similar to that used earlier by gay, black and women artists. Last week’s On the Square column about Fuller Seminary’s Art Immersion project laments “the difficulty of being a theist in the art world.” No such difficulty exists; it is a manufactured complaint. Helen Zajkowski. Tower of Babel (2002). Collaged pop-up booklet intended to “awaken the viewer to new dimensions to the New and Old Testaments.” However appealing to a religious audience, the rhetoric of marginalization is, at best, an overstatement; at worst, dishonest. Continue Reading
Museum Theology

Glancing quickly, I misinterpreted the opening lines of a recent bulletin from Sandro Magister’s Chiesa . My eye fell on a reference to the Venice Biennale and, at the same time, on a thumbnail image of a contemporary chapel. At once devotional and festive, it looked to be a lovely ensemble. My immediate impression was that the Vatican pavilion would contain a model chapel, a beautifully designed invitation to prayer—a challenge—addressed to the international art crowd. I was ready to recant all my misgivings about Cardinal Ravasi’s foray into the belly of the casino: I take it all back! Continue Reading
James Franco, Bird S**t, and the Grotesque

The grotesque is one of the most obvious forms art may take to pierce the veil of familiarity, to stab us up from the dross of the accustomed, to make us aware of the perilous paradoxically of life. Robert Penn Warren
So then, how do we approach a performance piece by celebrity artist James Franco called Bird Shit? What kind of malediction is left for a crude, fluffy-minded effort flying under cover of a protected academic category: The Grotesque? Bird Shit lands at the Museum of Modern Art’s satellite PS1 today, April 7th. Continue Reading
#askpontifex

Saints . . . reformed the Church in depth, not by working up plans for new structures, but by reforming themselves. What the Church needs in order to respond to the needs of man in every age is holiness, not management.
–Joseph Ratzinger Our president has a hashtag; now our pope has one, too. Benedict acquired it just in time to bequeath it to his successor. The next pope will inherit #askpontifex together with an audience already bundled and delivered. Is that not cool? Continue Reading
The Artist's Progress

Then: The Painter in His Studio (1647); Gerard Dou More then: Gera The Artist’s Studio; the Le Nain brothers (French, 17th C.) Still more then: Self-Portrait (1746); Luis Meléndez Then, yet again: John Francis Murphy in his studio at The Chelsea on W. 23 Street (Photo: Museum of the City of New York) Nowadays: MFA Student; School of the Art Institute of Chicago   Continue Reading