The Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson (MOCA Tucson) is pleased to present Blessed Be: Mysticism, Spirituality, and the Occult in Contemporary Art, a curated exhibition by Ginger Shulick Porcella exploring religion, ritual, cult mentality, and the human impulse to belong and participate, as viewed through the lens of cultural production. This exhibition examines the relationship between “cult” and “culture” and how the museum space, like sites of worship, are places for sustained, concentrated attention and contemplation. Blessed Be links spiritual practice to artistic production, raising questions about the liminal spaces that exist between the sacred and the prosaic, celebrating these renowned contemporary artists and visionaries. The exhibition reveals the performance behind the ritual, and as such Blessed Be is an evolving exhibition, activated throughout the course of the show through a full series of lectures, screenings, and performances. Themes explored in the exhibition include the power of language, sometimes as veiled or coded symbols (as in the work of Christopher Carrol or BREYER P-ORRIDGE); the sublime (as experienced through some of the more monumental and immersive works such as Cassils’ Ghost or Leo Villareal’s Signature of the Invisible); and ways that we can leave behind the here and now to go beyond what we previously thought was mentally or physically possible to explore the deeper mysteries of the universe (as in Adam Cooper-Terán’s site of ritual or in Matthew Day Jackson’s satirical In Search of…Lost Civilizations). Ultimately, Blessed Be evokes the inexpressible through both form and aesthetics, unveiling the divine aspects that can be found in even the most mundane activities to transform the museum into a sacred space for contemplation, empathy, revelation, global understanding, and transcendence.
Cassils, Ron Athey, Arshia Haq, Alison Blickle, Christopher Carroll, Adam Cooper-Terán, Mikala Dwyer, Amir H. Fallah, Barnaby Furnas, Matthew Day Jackson, Baseera Khan, Reverend Steven Johnson Leyba, Candice Lin, Ann McCoy, BREYER P-ORRIDGE, Harry E. Smith, Scott Treleaven, Leo Villareal, Zadie Xa
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Cassils is listed by the Huffington Post as “one of ten transgender artists who are changing the landscape of contemporary art,” having achieved international recognition for a rigorous engagement with the body as a form of social sculpture. Recent solo exhibitions include Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts; School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; Bemis Center, Omaha; MU Eindhoven, Netherlands; Trinty Square Video, Toronto; and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York. Cassils is the recipient of a United States Artists Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Creative Capital Award.
Ron Athey has been working at the vanguard of performance art for 25 years. His iconoclastic work reconsiders preconceived notions of masculinity, sexuality, religion and the anxiety surrounding the AIDS crisis. Athey’s work and performances have been staged and exhibited internationally including at MOCA Los Angeles, the Kampnagel Theater, Germany, and Western Projects, among others. His monograph, “Pleading in the Blood: The Art of Ron Athey”, was published in 2012 by the Live Art Development Agency and the MIT Press.
Arshia Fatima Haq works across various mediums including film, visual art, performance, and sound, and is currently exploring themes of embodiment and mysticism, particularly within the Islamic Sufi context. Her body of work stems from the complexities of inhabiting multiple personas: woman, Muslim, immigrant, citizen, insider, outsider. Her work has been featured at the Broad Museum, MoMA New York, Hammer Museum, and Centre George Pompidou to name just a few. She recently released an album of Sufi filed recordings from Pakistan.
Alison Blickle creates oil paintings and ceramics that depict women engaged in mysterious ceremonies. Presented as installations with objects positioned on the floor or on stands like altars in front of the paintings, the works together tell a story. Her work has been featured at Kravets Wehby Gallery, Deitch Projects, The Hole, Nassau County Museum, and New York University to name a few.
Christopher Carroll is a multidisciplinary artist whose attraction to the occult is closely aligned with his motivation to make visual art: both are linked to a desire to physically and spiritually probe nature. Exhibiting nationally and internationally, Carroll employs art and magic to learn why the “natural body” ignites his imagination and animates his dreams.
Adam Cooper-Terán is a native son of Tucson, having garnered praise for his work from the MPA Fund, NEA, National Hispanic Cultural Center, and International Sonoran Desert Alliance. A self-described psychonaut, Adam’s majik becomes a strange mutation of technology and organics, through the scanning of bodily fluids, bones, and other ephemera collected from the Sonoran Desert.
Mikala Dwyer has pushed the limits of installation, sculpture, and performance for over thirty years, establishing herself as one of Australia’s most important contemporary artists. Her work explores hidden histories and our own highly personal relationships with magic, memory, sexuality, and ritual. She has exhibited in major exhibitions throughout Australia and abroad including the Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin, Graz Museum Austria, and National Museum Warsaw to name just a few.
Amir H. Fallah interrogates systems of portraiture and representation embedded in the history of Western art. With their Pop Art hues and investment in domestic life, Fallah’s paintings wryly incorporate contemporary American tropes into paintings more formally rooted in Islamic Art, including the spatial organization and arabesque embellishment of Persian miniatures. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at the Schneider Museum, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, The Third Line in Dubai, and was chosen to participate in the 9th Sharjah Biennial.
Barnaby Furnas has spent much of his career depicting battle scenes, biblical tales, natural disasters, and moments of human triumph and failure. He has had numerous recent solo exhibitions including at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and his work can be found in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA, SFMOMA, and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.
Matthew Day Jackson creates work that addresses the myth of the American Dream, exploring the forces of creation, growth, transcendence, and death through visions of its failed utopia. His work is frequently monumental, imposing not only on a large scale physically but also conceptually, occupying an intellectual terrain that reaches from ancient history to Outer Space exploration and discovery. His numerous solo exhibitions have marked him as one of the most inventive and thought-provoking artists of his generation.
Baseera Khan shares experiences of exile and kinship shaped by economic, pop cultural, and political situations in her work. She mixes consumerism with spirituality and treats de-colonial histories, practices, and archives as geographies of the future. Her work has been on view at Sculpture Center, Whitney Museum of Art and the Queens Museum to name a few, and was a recent International Travel Fellow to Jerusalem through Apexart.
Reverend Steven Johnson Leyba is a ritualistic, shamanistic painter of Mescalero Apache ancestry. His art is equal parts satanic, holistic, radical, political, and extremely personal. Utilizing various media, Leyba creates a celebration of the sacred and the profane. Paint mixes with collage, beadwork, and DNA to make bold statements about the world we live in. He was recently the subject for the documentary Unspeakable: The Life and Art of Reverend Steven Johnson Leyba.
Candice Lin creates work that engages notions of gender, race, and sexuality, drawing from post/de-colonialism, citizen science, anthropology, feminist, and queer theory. Lin has exhibited widely including at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, New Museum, and Sculpture Center, and had recent residencies and awards with Headlands Center for the Arts and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation.
Ann McCoy is primarily known for her large format drawings, projections, installations, and bronze sculptures. Her work, deriving from her dreams and studies in alchemy, were featured in the 1986 Venice Biennale Art and Alchemy. McCoy’s work can be from in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, LACMA, Hirschhorn Museum, MoMA, the Neuberger Museum, SFMOMA, and the Whitney Museum.
BREYER P-ORRIDGE is the collaborative moniker of Lady Jane Breyer and Genesis P-Orridge, who have endeavored to merge both their genders and their identities—making their bodies the very vessels of the avant-garde imperative to re-imagine and reinvent the self as a third being: a Pandrogyne. Conceived to be a kind of “inter-dimensional” collaboration between the material and the immaterial world, P-ORRIDGE probes the limits of each of those enterprises, drawing on the consonant and indigenous traditions of shape-shifting and reincarnation: a practice born at an intersection of mortality and immortality as experienced as biology and as consciousness.
Harry E. Smith was an artist who delved into multiple disciplines in a quest to understand the structure and essence of what he considered universal patterns. He was a musicologist, experimental filmmaker, and compiler of folklore; he was also adept as a painter, linguist, anthropologist, and magician. His Anthology of American Folk Music is credited as triggering the folk music revival of the 1960s and in the past decades has become the primary and defining document in the alt-country/singer-songwriter movement.
Scott Treleaven first came to prominence two decades ago as a contributor to the North American gay punk scene, and was known for his collages, films and zines. His new work is culled from ritualism and automatic writing, while pointedly retaining aspects of an obscurantist collage process. His work has been shown at MoMA, The Warhol Museum, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, ICA Philadelphia, Palais de Tokyo and more.
Leo Villareal creates complex works of art with LED lights, using custom programming to constantly change their frequency, intensity, and patterning, prompting reconsideration of light, space, and technology. His work can be found in the collections of the Blanton Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Cornell University, MoMA, National Gallery of Art, and the Tampa Museum of Art to name a few.
Zadie Xa interrogates the overlapping and conflating of cultures that inform self-conceptualized identities, notions of self, and her own experience within the Asian diaspora. Her intricate hand-sewn fabric work stitches together familiar symbols of the yin-yang, knives, lucky numbers, and monolid eyes, all operating within a system of personalized semiotics.