The Tang Museum at Skidmore College presents Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent, a comprehensive survey of the revolutionary graphic artist’s 30-year career.
Kent (1918-1986) wore many hats in her lifetime; she was a pop artist, an art teacher, a civil rights and anti-war activist, and a Catholic nun. She is best known for the eye-popping works she produced in the 1960s and 70s, as well as her 1985 “LOVE” print that became an extremely popular postage stamp.
The exhibition’s opening reception, which is free and open to the public, is Saturday, January 26 from 6:00-7:30pm at the Tang Museum.
More than 250 of her eye-popping works are currently on display. “The gallery is exploding with color,” says Tang Dayton Director Ian Berry, who designed the show. “It’s very full - the walls are loaded with prints. It’s a really exuberant space in the museum.”
Like Andy Warhol and other pop artists of her time, Kent looked to the streets for material. “Anyone who walks in will start seeing things that look familiar,” says Berry. “There are a lot of logos and slogans and things that look very recognizable, Life Magazine covers.”
Yet, he says, Kent did not simply reproduce the world around her. She commented on it as well. “She’s taking these logos, taking them out of context, and making them about what she wanted to express. ‘Come Alive,’ ‘Power Up,’ ‘Look Up,’ ‘Get With the Action.’ She found these on billboards. For her they turn into aphorisms.”
Berry decided to present Kent’s career after being inspired both by the artist’s work and her life story. “She was a Catholic nun who made some of the most avant garde art of the 1960s. You don’t think of Catholic nuns as being groundbreaking artists.”
A celebrated teacher at the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, her artwork and teachings inspired the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, John Cage, and Buckminster Fuller. “She was a revolutionary teacher, not just for her students,” says Berry. “These people like Alfred Hitchcock took a lot from her assignments about seeing inspiration in everyday things. It was a very optimistic way of seeing the world.”
Admirers of Kent will be excited to see rarely-displayed works from both the beginning and end of her career - pre-pop art illustrations from the 1950s and watercolors she painted as she neared the end of her life. “You can still see in those watercolors the same marks that were in her earlier works,” says Berry.
Also opening at the Tang on January 26 are the abstract, biomorphic paintings of the Brooklyn-based artist Carrie Moyer. Pirate Jenny, number 24 in the Tang’s Opener Series fills the museum’s second floor with “political imagery, abstraction, and unapologetic visual pleasure,” according to the Tang website.
In addition, visitors will hear sound art by Yoko Ono emanating from the hidden hotspots throughout the museum as part of the Tang’s Elevator Music series. Meetings by Paul Shambroom, a collection of photographs of town hall meetings, will be shown in conjunction with the ongoing exhibit We the People.
Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent will be on display through July 28.
ON THE WIRE