Devotion is a thought experiment. I wanted to see how contemporary art would function when placed in a shrine/chapel/temple setting in which it would be hopefully viewed in the context of it’s original ritual usage. Many of the pieces lent them selves easily to this metaphysical process–Eliszabeth Kley’s ceramic cages, Mike Ballou’s bird flock wall paintings and studio carpet, Rico Gatson’s Throne and panels all fell right into the category or liturgical decorations and furniture; Justin Orvis Steimer’s soul portraits easily were read as abstracted icons. Other artists found themselves in a slightly more ambiguous territory, but the work metamorphosed nicely from the present conception of the meaning of art to an earlier idea of art as an evocation of practical magic: Joyce Pensato’s crowd of Elmos became a weird creche, Roxy Paine’s glass encased fungi became colorful reliquaries and Joe Brittain’s kinetic weights became a solid sturdy censer. Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels was commissioned to create a rood screen–an archaic piece of church architecture that initially was meant to divide the congregants from the celebrants, but in her pair of wing-like screens, the divisiveness is gone, replaced by the enigma of the liminal space, a sacred zone within the gallery space. A small storefront on the lower east side became a miniature temple, decorated by some of the most exciting artists working in New York at this time. Much of my thinking in terms of art as ritual and ritual object comes out of my conversation and interview with the archeologist Colin Renfrew.
All images courtesy of the artists, Will Corwin and Catinca Tabacaru Gallery.