The December issue of Chicago Artists’ News contains another installment of “Perspectives,” a column in which invited artists, critics, gallerists, and other art-world figures weigh in on an issue or phenomenon that has caught their attention.
This month, James Elkins of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago addresses what he takes to be the “largest issue in art education”: the lack of dialogue between contemporary art and religion. We’d like to know what ArtStyle readers think about this issue. Is there space for genuine religious content in contemporary art? Or is contemporary art inimical to sincere religious expression? How might art writing accommodate religion? What exactly accounts for the gap between modern art and religion?
Jeremy Biles, Editor
Chicago Artists’ News
Bridging the Gap Between Modern Art and Religion
by James Elkins
As a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I've noticed that art students who make work with religious or spiritual significance often can't get interesting criticism. Their instructors will often shy away from religious or spiritual themes, and talk instead about safe things like color and form. At the professional level, if artists make work that is infused with religious themes, they typically cannot get shows in the main art galleries, or places in biennales or art fairs.
Andres Serrano, Piss Christ, 1987, Cibachrome, silicone, plexiglass, wood frame 60 x 40 inches (152.4 x 101.6 cm); framed: 65 x 45 1/8 inches (165.1 x 114.6 cm) ASE/N-42-A-PH. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery.