Attention: art-lovers! For a good time, and a great springboard to invigorating thoughts and conversations, make your way down to Balboa Park for "Beyond the Age of Reason," a new exhibition now on view at San Diego Art Institute.
Thanks to curators Debby and Larry Kline, a dynamic duo of artist/educators who delight in pushing the edges of all sorts of envelopes, the show is a grand display of more than 50 works by 20 different artists, all revealing the influence of religious imagery in their work.
The artists hail from San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tucson and Tijuana, and their works include, along with the more-expected Christian, Jewish, and Islamic-inspired images, a bit of voodoo, witchcraft, and even an agnostic angel, by LA-based Stephen Douglas, who had his own kind of epiphany after his father died.
"The exhibition is all about faith, and how it meshes with popular culture," say the Klines. "Most often, faith has to do with things beyond reason."
What they learned from curating the exhibit is that even artists who abandoned the religions they were born into seem to retain the imagery. "It's like the ritual remains, without the dogma," Larry Kline says.
Adds Debby Kline: "In many ways, curating is an extension of our art practice. We pay attention, and we get to see things differently. That's our suggestion to viewers of this show: Open your eyes and keep an open mind, and you're likely to learn more about your own ideas of faith and belief."
Larry Kline interjects: "The show is really meant to bring people together, to show the commonalities among all these different belief systems. We even included mythology, since so many religious traditions are rooted in myth."
The myth-master is Eleanor Antin, one of the founding members of UC San Diego's Visual Arts Department, and an internationally-admired artist, or as the Klines put it: "an artist of the world." Shown here is one of the pieces from her "Roman Allegories," a series of large-scale photos staged in Del Mar and La Jolla that re-envision the last days of an ancient civilization remarkably similar to ours.
Another VIP is Tucson-based Wayne Martin Belger, whose compelling photo-portraits of Syrian refugees, Zapatistas, and pipeline protesters were just featured in the July/August issue of Smithsonian Magazine. He builds his own cameras — artworks themselves that incorporate relics of wars, 9/11, the AIDS epidemic and other momentous events — and travels around the world to photograph people that many of us think of as "others."
In "Us and Them," he shows us their souls, and their handwriting, too, since he asks his subjects to write something straight from the heart, in their own language, which he includes in their larger-than-life-size portraits. Raised Catholic, with a tinge of Santeria, Belger is clearly a humanist. Having eight of his photos and a camera/shrine here is a real coup for the Klines, and for SDAI, it's the first time they've been on public display.
And then there's Michelangelo — a touch of antiquity in this otherwise contemporary show. The marble heads of Bacchus and Mary are Vatican-licensed copies made from the original full-body sculptures. "Bacchus is the oldest of his surviving sculptures, and the one that got him the commission to do the Pietà," says Larry. "Without the profane, you wouldn't have the sacred."
This is an important, and very timely, exhibition. You won't want to miss it.
About the Klines
An adventurous art couple whose installations have been widely shown around and beyond San Diego, they are artists-in-residence at UC Medical School and occasional lecturers at Salk Institute and Qualcomm. Based in Escondido , they also have a studio in LA.
They'll be among the multimedia artists featured in "DesEscondido/No Longer Hidden," an exhibition of public art opening Sept. 29 at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Coming soon: their reinterpretations of Audubon bird paintings at the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.
La Jolla Roots
A smaller, somewhat expurgated version of "Beyond the Age of Reason" was originally shown in 2015 at the Jewish Community Center's Gotthelf Gallery in La Jolla. It was called "Seeing is Believing," and you can read about it at bit.ly/gotthelfexhibit
• IF YOU GO:
"Beyond the Age of Reason" is on view 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 31, 2018 at San Diego Art Institute, 1439 El Prado in Balboa Park, San Diego. Tickets: $3-$5. (619) 236-0011. sandiego-art.org