Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Sr. Corita Kent and Her Messages of Love and Politics
She became known as an artist, educator, and advocate for social justice. Her work incorporated advertising images and slogans, popular song lyrics, biblical verses, and literature. Throughout the ‘60s, her work became increasingly political; urging viewers to consider difficult subjects like poverty, racism, injustice, the Vietnam War and humanitarian crises. Her artwork, with its messages of love and peace, was particularly popular during the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s.
Corita and her work was central to an art movement famous for celebrating kitsch and consumer culture.
Her classes at Immaculate Heart were an avant-garde mecca for prominent, ground-breaking artists and inventors, such as Alfred Hitchcock, John Cage, Saul Bass, Buckminster Fuller and Charles & Ray Eames. By the early 1950s, she had such a unique and well-known aesthetic that clergy members from all over the country were sent to be educated at Immaculate Heart College.
Corita's prints often incorporated the brands of American consumerism alongside spiritual texts. Her design process involved appropriating an original advertising graphic; for example, she would tear, rip, or crumble the image, then re-photograph it. She often used grocery store signage, texts from scripture, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and writings from literary greats such as Gertrude Stein, E. E. Cummings, and Albert Camus.
Corita elevated the banal to the holy. Her earliest work was mostly iconographic, drawing inspiration from the Bible and other religious sources. Her faith is evident in the colors she chooses and the sources she quotes. Over time, Kent developed a rich Pop art iconography for the depiction of Catholic subjects.
Corita’s art has at times looks haphazard– her handwriting is messy and sometimes illegible, the printed words bend and fold on themselves, the colors splash into each other. She liked the idea of printmaking as the overlap between precision and free form color and shape. Her collages took popular images, often with twisted or reversed words, to comment on the political unrest of the time period, many of which could have been found at any number of marches or demonstrations, some of which she attended herself.
Dubbed the “joyous revolutionary” by artist Ben Shahn, she lectured and appeared on television and radio talk shows across the country. Over her career, she created nearly 800 editioned images, thousands of watercolors, and did numerous public and private commissions.
Corita is commissioned to create a banner for the Vatican Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.
The Los Angeles Times names Corita one of nine Women of the Year.
Corita is on the cover of the Christmas issue of Newsweek Magazine.
Corita took a sabbatical in 1968, then decided she did not want to return to the order, or to teaching, but she remained close with the Immaculate Heart Community the rest of her life.
Corita's repository of art is held at the Corita Art Center in Los Angeles, and at Harvard University. Her work is included in some of the most important museums in the world; Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Harvard University, the National Gallery of Art, the Centre Pompidou and the Whitney Museum of American Art.