By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
Other works, such as Robert Heinecken's photo-collage prints and Joyce Lightbody's meticulously intricate collage, are connected to the nun's prints by the merest formal or conceptual threads, while Ben Sakoguchi's politically instructive orange-crate-label parody series only suffers in comparison to the sophistication and grace of Corita's subversion. Still, even on its own this half would be an unusually cohesive group show. The general excellence of this work, including a hilarious Cheese Mold, Standard Station by Ed Ruscha; one of Michael Gonzalez's lovely layered Wonder Bread bubble permutation displays; and pieces by Allen Ruppersberg, Lari Pittman, Roy Dowell, Alexis Smith and Raymond Pettibon -- combined with the solid survey of Sister Corita's '60s Pop works -- makes a convincing case for Duncan's argument for Corita's place in, and influence on, contemporary Los Angeles art history.
ACROSS TOWN AT THE UCLA HAMMER Museum, "Power Up: Sister Corita and Donald Moffett, Interlocking" forges an awkward alliance between the nun and the '80s text-'n'-photo activist, whose Krugerific paste-ups ran in The Village Voice at the turn of the last decade. Initially interested in curating a show around Moffett, artist-curator Julie Ault came across Sister Corita's work, and sensed a tension-fraught similarity in both artists' use of recycled advertising culture to social and political ends. Although she came onboard as an adjunct to his show, Sister Corita's vision all but overwhelms Moffett's. Inspired by Corita's festive happenings and environmental sets, Ault has painted the walls with massive supergraphic word fragments in bright colors, strewn the space with painted and stenciled wooden boxes as seating, packed the walls with prints in dizzying salon style, and provided an array of books and displays including some of the same video material as in the Luckman exhibit. Almost lost in this dazzling installation are Moffett's quite excellent circular light-box pieces and his less endearing combinations of cropped photos and vague political typeset soundbites. The cramped shorthand and earnest pedantry of Moffett's broadsides are unflatteringly emphasized in their juxtaposition with Sister Corita's more generous, doubtful, and visually and intellectually nourishing vocabulary. Moffett would have fared better in a context like Duncan's group show, as one of a number of paths parallel to Corita's own. It's a hard act to follow.
Both shows are exciting, though the sensory overload of the Hammer installation detracts from the appreciation of the individual serigraphs. Sister Corita's work is splendid, and suffused with a sense of integration, of a competent graphic artist pushed to unlikely heights by the tides of history and finding unsuspected reserves of genius and compassion with which to respond. Both exhibitions beg the question, How much of Corita's gift came from the social conditions through which it emerged? The lack of critical interest in her later work suggests: almost all of it. If Corita hadn't admittedly felt obliged to enter a convent in order to pursue art, if her star hadn't risen at a time of widespread social upheaval, if her teaching profession and responsibilities as a Christian role model hadn't predisposed her to take a stand and spread the word as widely as she could, she might have spent the '60s painting the LOVE stamp. Thank the Lord for his tender mercies.
THE BIG G STANDS FOR GOODNESS: CORITA KENT'S 1960S POPAt Cal State L.A. Luckman Fine Arts Gallery | Through February 26
POWER UP: SISTER CORITA AND DONALD MOFFETT, INTERLOCKINGAt UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd. | Through April 2
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