1. Darkness Visible: The Art of Sam Winston
Aaron Rosen [+]
Wesley Theological Seminary
What truths can radically non-representational works disclose? I will begin by considering Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915), which recalls Russian Orthodox icon painting, followed by Ad Reinhardt’s ‘black paintings’ from the sixties, inflected by Reinhardt’s discussions with the Catholic monk Thomas Merton, as well as his investigations of Zen Buddhism. For his part, Barnett Newman’s own black-on-black painting, Abraham (1949), has interesting resonances with Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism. More recently, artists such as Idris Khan, Kader Attia, Mona Hatoum, and Gregor Schneider have created sculptures which evoke the black cube of the Ka’aba in Mecca, the orienting point for Muslim prayer. Together, these works share certain intimations of transcendence, while also—given their disparate religious and art-historical reference points—frustrating attempts to define any single monotheistic aesthetic. Rather than proposing abstraction as a symbolic language which Jews, Christians, and Muslims should all agree upon, I want to propose an apophatic dialogue. Abstraction, I will claim, can help us learn to talk, together, about what we choose not to depict.