1. Darkness Visible: The Art of Sam Winston

Religion and Sight - Louise Child

Aaron Rosen [+-]
Wesley Theological Seminary
Dr. Aaron Rosen is Professor of Religion and Visual Culture and Director of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC. He was previously Senior Lecturer of Sacred Traditions and the Arts at King’s College London, where he remains a visiting professor. Rosen began his career teaching at Yale, Oxford, and Columbia Universities, after receiving his doctorate from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Art & Religion in the 21st Century, Imagining Jewish Art, and Brushes with Faith, and is at work on a monograph entitled The Hospitality of Images. His edited books include: Religion and Art in the Heart of Modern Manhattan; Visualising a Sacred City: London, Art, and Religion; and Encounters: The Art of Interfaith Dialogue. He regularly curates exhibitions and is the co-founder of the public arts project Stations of the Cross, which has been staged in London, New York, Washington, D.C., and Amsterdam.


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 Together, these works share certain intimations of transcendence, while also—given their disparate religious and art-historical reference points—frustrating attempts to define any single monotheistic aesthetic.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.

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Rosen, Aaron. 1. Darkness Visible: The Art of Sam Winston. Religion and Sight. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Jul 2020. ISBN 9781781797495. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=35744. Date accessed: 23 Oct 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.35744. Jul 2020

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