Blaspheming artists get all the press. Some exploit the shock potential of religious imagery – but many also reflect deeply on spiritual matters and are, in fact, some of the most profound and sensitive commentators on religion today. Here, Aaron Rosen shows how religious themes and images permeate the work of contemporary artists from across the globe.
Contrary to the expectations of twentieth-century rationalists, religion has not faded away in the 21st century, but roared back onto the scene with renewed vitality. This survey shows how religious themes and images continue to permeate the work of contemporary artists from across the globe. Some exploit the shock potential of religious imagery, but many also reflect deeply on spiritual matters.
The introduction outlines the debates and controversies that the art–religion connection has precipitated throughout history. Each of the book’s chapters opens by introducing a theme – ideas about creation, the sublime, wonder, diaspora and exile, religious and political conflict, ritual practice, mourning and monumentalizing, environmental art and sacred space – followed by a selection of works of art that develop that theme.
The book encompasses a wide range of media and genres, from sculpture to street art, and considers faith in its broadest sense – from Islam and Christianity to Aboriginal mythology and meditation.
Artists discussed include Ai Weiwei, Francis Alÿs, Vanessa Beecroft, Maurizio Cattelan, Cristo and Jeanne-Claude, Olafur Eliasson, Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Mona Hatoum, David LaChapelle, Richard Long, Annette Messager, Mariko Mori, Grayson Perry, Richard Serra, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bill Viola, Mark Wallinger and more.