Aaron Rose, the California-based curator/musician behind the now-infamous Beautiful Losers exhibition, which championed the work of subculture “street artists” like Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen (both Season 1) and Raymond Pettibon (Season 2), has another genre-defying exhibition currently on view in Berlin at Circle Culture Gallery, the city’s preeminent commercial space for urban contemporary art. Entitled Passion for the Possible, this show presents a surprising facet of urban pop art (especially in conjunction with street art and all of its subversive implications), specifically the obsessive print-making efforts of Sister Corita, a one-time Catholic nun.
Actually, Sister Corita was more of a deviant than her sanctified vocation avowed and she ultimately left the church after being labeled “a guerilla with a paintbrush” (according to the press release). Her artistic practice is thus a fitting anachronism for Aaron Rose’s curatorial framework and general penchant for blurring boundaries between disparate cultures. The works on view, a combination of silkscreen prints, murals and sculpture incorporating “popular culture images such as archetypal American consumerist products…alongside spiritual texts, song lyrics and literary writings,” explicitly oppose the conformity typically associated with her brand of Catholicism’s hyper-conservative doctrine.
Sister Corita was predominately active in California during the 1960’s and 70’s. Her use of collective consumer imagery in mass-produced prints is noted in the press release as “the positive west-coast alternative to Warhol, possibly pre-dating him.” She left the Church in 1969, only to be diagnosed with cancer in the early 1970’s and given six months to live. She didn’t succumb to her illness for another seven years, but she nonetheless began an intense period of artistic production immediately following her diagnosis. Her work and her biography are both inspiring and inherently American (in relation to the bygone era that her work represents), bridging the divide between public service and self-expression, social responsibility and anti-institutional rebellion.
Passion for the Possible runs through May 30th. A monograph of works by Sister Corita, aka Corita Kent, entitled Come Alive! The Spirited Art of Sister Corita, was recently published by Four Corners Books.