8 Nov 2022


Contemporary Visual Art | Tate

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This chapter begins by explaining the complex relationship between contemporary art and religion. This complexity is exemplified by the controversies, challenges , and resignifications of religion and contemporary art , and is examined using examples of artwork by Andrea Serano, Chris Ofili, Renee Cox and other C hicana artists. From a superficial standpoint, the author proffers that it is easy for one to misinterpret and misrepresent the intention of the artist as well as the significance of the artwork itself while ignoring the sacred importance in other multiple religious, traditional contexts and cultures. It is also clarified from the beginning that contemporary art and religion are cut from the same cloth and have influenced each other's development thus far. The complex relationship between religion and contemporary art is explained more concisely using the artwork by Serano titled Piss C hrist . Here, it is shown that despite widespread condemnation by conservative critics and political leaders, the assumptions under which the criticism i s made are in fact flawed. With regard to this particular piece of artwork, the specific misrepresentation of the artist ’ s intentions as well as the significance of the piece of art are explained. 

Serano claims that as an artist , he has a particular interest in Christian symbols . Besides, he considers his artistic work to be religious . For instance, he argues that Piss C hrist , in particular, was meant as ‘a protest of the commercialization of sacred imagery. ’ Critics view Serano's work as an attempt to provide an alternative explanation of the relationship between the human body and religion. Another piece of artwork that has public notoriety as blasphemous, and thus considered anti - catholic is the painting by Chris Ofili titled The H oly V irgin M ary . While creating the painting, Ofili used materials that are contentious in religious circles . Notable among these was the elephant dung. In the rendering of Christian scenes in Yo Mama’s Last Supper , Renee Cox introduced an aspect of gender, race , and religion. On the other hand, two C hicana artists , Ester Hernandez and Yolanda Lopez , have used the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe as Chicana feminist resignification and portrayal of the virgin as a conqueror. These C hicana appropriations have generated controversies and conservative attacks against the artworks and artists . H owever, they are an example of the enormous influence of religious imagery and content on contemporary art. T he book chapter uses images and block texts to show examples of artworks and to explain the concepts of appropriation and resignification respective ly. 

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The next section covers the interrogation and critique of religion as content in contemporary art . Here, examples of contemporary art with content that includes mixed media, sculpture , and installation works are contrasted with those that employ religious imagery and content. F or instance , Amalia Mesa-Bains , a C hicana artist , is used as an example to explain the complex and often misrepresented role of mixed media in contemporary art inspired by religion . The author uses two forms of art, Altares and ofrendas , which evoke political and religious meanings. Also, the work by Helene Aylon involving installations that critique the traditional religious doctrines of Judaism, especially gender hierarchies are highlighted . Aylon ’s works, specifically The L iberation of G- d are described as devotional, and interrogation and critique of the T orah through contemporary art . It is also considered a n examination of gender roles or gender inequality as sanctioned by Judaism’s Holy Scripture. S imilarly , the photography, video, and film work of Shirin Neshat in the context of gender and Islam as represented in her work s W omen of Allah series , Rebellious S ilence , and O ffered E yes from Unveiling are covered. 

The subsequent section is aimed at articulating the meaning and experience of religion as content in contemporary art. Subsequently , contrasts are drawn between contemporary artwork that interrogate s and critique s religious doctrine and belief through religious imagery . It also covers those which articulate religious meaning and experience such as the videotapes and installations by Bill Viola. Viola has been described as a historical artist working with sacred traditions . Thus, religious content and concerns are prevalent in his works, collectively known as T he Passions . Apart from some experiential work such as Catherines R oom , Viola has also produced work that is viewed a s a transfer of his religious experiences in Five A ngels for the Millenium . R eference is also given to Viola’s abstract expressionism as well as the employment of Mark Rothko’s abstract expressionism for religious use in chapels.

The author further explores religious activities in or as contemporary art. One of the most profound components in this regard is a description of the shift heralded by Rothko’s comments in reference to his work. Rothko reckons that there was a shift in the mid-twentieth century art towards emphasis in artistic activities and their experiential qualities. This shift exemplifies another category or type of relationship between religion and art . It can be considered art that engages in and activates ritualistic behavior . It c an , however , blur the lines between the sacred and profane. This is followed by brief sections on happenings and early performance art, and finally an extended treatise on religious practice and ritual activities in body and performance art. The l ast section delves into the performance projects and works of Linda Montano . It also covers the link between religion and ritual , and the creation of artworks in important, sacred, and holy religious sites . In this pursuit, artworks dedicated to various sacred female figures by Ana Mendieta are highlighted . The author reckons that t here is also the inference of shamanic properties and influences in the work s of Mendieta . This particularly applies to such works as Untitled (Death of a C hicken) and Bird T ransformation .


Is it possible that religions, culture , and traditions are not perfect and hence require contextual re - interpretation from generation to generation?

Are there indications that everything is interwoven , and that art, globalization and culture are all part of the joint evolution of the human experience?

Chapter 14: C ontemporary M usic 


This chapter examines the complex relationship between music and religion , especially in western cultures from the perspective of the United States (U.S). T he aim is to clarify the connections and to present the argument that , in fact , music and religion are interwoven. This chapter first describes the feeling of attending a concert by the rock band known as the ‘Grateful Dead' from the perspective of fans of this band or ‘deadheads. ’ In this chapter, it is explained at the outset that an exploration of the religious dimensions of music necessitates the examination of the tension between individual and group identification . It also requires the differentiation between the spheres of sacred and profane in the lives of participants. The chapter then delves specifically into ‘ cultural bridges and divides ’ and their role in the relationship between music and religion . This relationship is examined especially with regard to the performance of rituals, uniting individuals into collective groups, cultural divides and settings. T he next section delves into the influence of aspects such as public versus private life, ’ and the setting , whether inside or outside religious institutions. Here, t he influences are explained to be through the involvement of music in many traditional religions and in the reformation movement of the Jewish fai th. Likewise, the historical role of music in the religious Christian life and traditions plays a vital role. Lastly, the birth of gospel music from the African - American Christian community churches has been mentioned a vital source of influence .

Th e author also explores the background and recent developments in popular music and culture outside of religious institutions . This section examines the numerous religious dimensions of contemporary culture that are associated with religion. In the subsequent section on ‘C onvergence in D aily L ife, ’ these dimensions are married with the practices of daily life. Wh ile this chapter beg i n s with an examination of the association of music with the individual, the section on ‘C ommunity L ife ’ is a description of the association of music with community life and the role of individuals in it. In the section on ‘ Sacred time, S acred S pace, and the S ymbolic, ’ the religious dimensions of music in the practice of daily life are brought into perspective. The section titled ‘ Nation, Authority, a nd the Marketplace ’ delves into the role of music in national life , the reach of capitalism ’ s effect , and the influences and goals of maximization of profits.

Provocati ons 

Have t he role s of the nation and marketplace diverted focus from the religious role of music ? 

Is m usic still symbolic and sacred despite the differentiation between sacred and profane ? 

Can music be used to re-interpret culture and religion? 

Answers t o Provocations 

Have t he role s of the nation and marketplace diverted focus from the religious role of music ? 

Music has the quality of being prophetic or nationalistic . In this case, music c an be used as a warning to the society’s departure from norms and ideals , or a call to the maintenance of social order and the functioning of the existing systems of leadership. Both roles represent a call for the achievement of a just, moral , and ethical society . H owever , one focuses on maintaining the status quo while the other attacks it. To support nationalism, there is a need to involve all cultural practices to this end . T his includes music, which serves as a framework for integrating hegemonic and counter - hegemonic forces. Not all music is made by professionals for sale . H owever, the influence of capitalism and its quest for profit maximization is far - reaching. The religious dimensions and symbolism of music in the daily life are structured around the dual symbols of the individual and the community . This applies, for instance , in such roles as rites of passage and the development of particular tastes in music by teenagers . These roles are relevant to date .

Can music be used to re-interpret culture and religion? 

The dual concepts of appropriation and resignification can be used to explain this while drawing from the example of the complicated relationship between music and religion. I n addition to finding inspiration in religious symbolism and imagery, c ontemporary artists can go further and address questions of authenticity and origins in their contemporary music with religious undertones. For instance, the author reckons that music is capable of establishing cultural bridges and divides. These bridges and divides cannot be ignored in the discourse on music and religion. Subsequently, it is undeniable that music can be used to re-interpret culture and religion. For instance, owing to their choice of music, individuals and groups are likely to shun what they consider ‘mainstream’ and ‘conventional’ and embrace a new paradigm. This new paradigm is a reflection of their identities and voice on numerous cultural or religious positions. Likewise, those that subscribe to a particular school of thought are likely to create a strong connection that is not only based on beliefs, but also on meaning. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). Contemporary Visual Art | Tate.


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