And the WORD is...
This exhibition explores various approaches to the use of religious language in contemporary art, from the straightforward to the ironic. In her church signage series, conceptually-based photographer Stephanie Kirk addresses the textual declarations of religious public signage posted in the front of churches. These signs aim to alert people to the need to attend church and the significance of religion in our lives. Martin Brief makes conceptual drawings that explore language. His Amazon God series is comprised of ink prints, each containing a list of handwritten book titles with the word “God” in the title collected from a search on Amazon.com. David Stephens is a blind sculptor who creates abstract wood constructions with paraphrases from the Bible carved in Braille along their surfaces. Kirk and Brief witness the public manifestation of contemporary religious expression while Stephens’ inclusion of text is more personal and private. Nicholas Kripal has designed and built a floor sculpture/installation specific to the exhibition entitled Epiphany.
-J. Susan Isaacs, PhD
Curator of Special Projects
Martin Brief • St. Louis, MO
Stephanie Kirk • West Chester, PA
Nick Kripal • Philadelphia, PA
David Stephens • Philadelphia, PA
About the Artists
Martin Brief (Chicago, Il)
Born and raised in Chicago, Martin Brief is an artist whose recent work, long-term, absurd, drawing-based tasks, explores the way that language, thought, and information relate to contemporary culture and the creation of self. Martin’s work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally including exhibitions in New York, Paris, Zurich, Washington, D.C. and Chicago. In addition, his work is in several public collections, including those of the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona and the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 2010 his solo exhibition, Amazon God, was held at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis as part of the Great Rivers Biennial. Martin currently lives and works in St. Louis and is an Assistant Professor at Saint Louis University.
Stephanie Kirk (West Chester, PA)
Who writes the signs, who writes the signs?*
Church signs scare me. I wonder why we’re concerned with subliminal messages advertising popcorn but not worried about signs that scare people. As a child reading signs that advertised vacation bible school filled me with dread.
A year or so ago, I realized that my fear of church signs began with my love of reading all things and the messages on church signs were often heavy-handed and punitive. Since I began photographing these signs, I have put them into three categories:
• confusing – a theme I refer to as “Huh?”
*With apologies to Barry Manilow
Nicholas Kripal (Philadelphia, PA)
Over the past several years one aspect of my studio practice has been an investigation of site-related/site-specific installations. Specifically, but not exclusively, I have placed sculptural installations within sacred spaces. I am interested in the history of the site, the religious rites that take place within the site, and the architectural iconography of the site. The last is of particular interest as it operates as a signifier for the other two. Unlike traditional exhibitions in white box gallery spaces, these sculptural installations involve interface with the site’s congregation, and extensive research and development for preliminary proposals that describe and negotiate the conceptual and aesthetic integration of the sculpture to the site. Consequently, all of the above affect and determine the format of the final installation. Furthermore, the research for these site-related installations inevitably generates ideas that extend other aspects of my studio practice. The sculpture, Epiphany, included in this exhibition, is one example. Epiphany is defined as: 1. sudden realization, 2. appearance of god. It is a term often used by artists to describe a critical moment in the creative process. Salt has many important uses in religion and culture and is often found in a variety of purifying rituals, and covenants in both the Old and New Testaments were often sealed with salt: the origin of the word “salvation.”
David Stephens (Philadelphia, PA)
David Stephens holds a B.F.A. in printmaking from Howard University and an MFA in sculpture from Tyler. He has shown his work at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, D.C.; the Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University; the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, CT; and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, among others. His work is included in the collections of the Slought Foundation, the Corcoran, Howard University and many private collections. Stephens has been blind just over ten years which changed the direction of his work.