God in the Modern Wing
Should Christians even bother with the modern wing at the art museum? After all, modern art and artists are often caricatured as rabidly opposed to God, the church—indeed, to faith of any kind. But is that all there is to the story?
In this Studies in Theology and the Arts volume, coeditors Cameron J. Anderson and G. Walter Hansen gather the reflections of artists, art historians, and theologians who collectively offer a more complicated narrative of the history of modern art and its place in the Christian life. Here, readers will find insights on the work and faith of artists including Marc Chagall, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, and more.
For those willing to look with eyes of faith, they may just find that God is present in the modern wing too.
The Studies in Theology and the Arts series encourages Christians to thoughtfully engage with the relationship between their faith and artistic expression, with contributions from both theologians and artists on a range of artistic media including visual art, music, poetry, literature, film, and more.
"In recent years, Christian thinkers have been engaging modern visual art in fresh and telling ways. This collection of penetrating essays is a welcome addition to this growing stream. Through the eyes of an informed and generous faith, a fiercely complex and often obscure movement is seen to be rife with rumors of the Christian God. A fascinating read."
"If the reader seeks a book that explores important examples of modern art with enviable clarity and keen theological insight, then this book is one to read. Cam Anderson has gathered a group of artists, art historians, curators, and writers who offer searching reflections that emerge from their experience in the studio, classroom, and museum. The result is a pleasure to read."
"In the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago there is no obviously religious art: no Madonnas seated on thrones, no cherubs, no ascetics gazing heavenward, no doves descending. It all appears thoroughly secular. But suppose that, with eyes of faith and informed about the lives and times of the artists, one looks closely and reflectively at what is there rather than at what is not there. That is what the writers in this collection do. And what they see is art haunted by transcendence on the one hand and despair and brokenness on the other—and, here and there, by celebration of the beauty of the ordinary. It turns out that the distance between Fourth Presbyterian in Chicago and the Modern Wing is not as great as many think. Take and read—and have yours eyes opened."
"In a variety of essays ranging from the personal to the didactic, God in the Modern Wing unpacks the continued challenge and opportunity that modern art, now more than a century old, presents to an audience that can often be dismissive of its possible merits—contemporary Christians. Cameron Anderson, one of the anthology's editors, raises the prospect that his goal is a 'fool's errand.' But the reader who is open to the complexities of modern art as well as belief will find the efforts here a welcome opportunity to reconsider both."
"If the God of the Bible is in the business of being found in the most unlikely places—a bush, a ladder, a donkey, a meal—then we shouldn't be surprised if he chooses to show up in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. This marvelous book takes us on a riveting tour of artworks, from Dalí to Rothko to Catlett, with expert guides who train our eyes to perceive signs of divine presence, alive and at large."
"This wonderful compilation of vignettes on many of the most indelible and spiritually evocative works of modernism listens closely for their theological resonances while paying attention to the art-historical context, critical reception, enduring significance, and situatedness of each work within the museum's diverse collection. Its holistic approach preserves both the utmost intellectual integrity along with a generative curiosity of spirit. For readers exhausted by the fraught division of art and religion, the esteemed collective of voices in God in the Modern Wing issues an inspiring counterpoint and will serve as an adept guide for effecting fresh encounters with modern art."
Foreword by Shannon Johnson Kershner
Preface by G. Walter Hansen
Introduction: Being Modern (Cameron J. Anderson)
1. Visitation: Engaging Art as an Epiphanic Leap (Tim Lowly)
2. Chagall’s Cathedral: Faith, Hope, and Love in the Art Institute's Modern Wing (Matthew J. Milliner)
3. Transcendence and Immanence: The Sculpture of Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti (Cameron J. Anderson)
4. Cubism: The Real Figuration of Being (Joel C. Sheesley)
5. God in the Wasteland . . . and in the Seaside Paradise: The Late Works of Philip Guston and Richard Diebenkorn (Bruce Herman)
6. Theological Imagination: The Paintings of Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman (Linda Stratford)
7. The Impossibility of Mark Rothko (Makoto Fujimura)
8. Hidden in Pop: Andy Warhol's Art as Modern Religious Iconography (David W. McNutt)
9. Who Is My Neighbor? The Art of Elizabeth Catlett and Charles White (Steve Prince)
10. André Cadere: Am I Bothering Us? Arts as Protest in the Gallery (Leah Samuelson)
Afterword: Making Space (Cameron J. Anderson)
Editors and Contributors