Exhibition dates: September 3, 2015–January 3, 2016
Presented by: Harvard Art Museums
American artist Corita Kent juxtaposed spiritual, pop cultural, literary, and political writings alongside symbols of consumer culture and modern life in order to create bold images and prints during the 1960s. Also known as Sister Mary Corita, Kent is often seen as a curiosity or an “anomaly” in the pop art movement. Corita Kent and the Language of Pop positions Kent and her work within the pop art idiom, showing how she is an innovative contemporary of Warhol, Ruscha, Lichtenstein, Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, and other pop art icons.
The exhibition examines Kent’s screenprints as well as her 1971 bold “rainbow swash” design for the Boston Gas (now National Grid) tank located alongside I-93 south of downtown Boston—providing the city with its own pop art monument, not unlike the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. More than 60 of Kent’s prints appear alongside about the same number of works by her prominent contemporaries, along with a selection of films, books, and other works.
The exhibition also expands the current scholarship on Kent’s art, elevating the role of her artwork by identifying its place in the artistic and cultural movements of her time. In particular, the exhibition explores how Kent’s work both responded to and advanced the concerns of Vatican II, a movement to modernize the Catholic Church and make it more relevant to contemporary society. The church advocated, among other changes to traditional liturgy, conducting the Mass in the local, vernacular language. Kent, like her pop art contemporaries, simultaneously turned to vernacular texts for inclusion in her prints, drawing from such colloquial sources as product slogans, street signs, and Beatles lyrics.
Kent (1918–1986) was a Roman Catholic nun, an artist, and an educator. From 1936 to 1968 she lived, studied, and taught at the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles, and she headed the art department at the college there from 1964 to 1968. In 1968, Kent left Immaculate Heart and relocated to Boston, where she lived until her death in 1986.
StoryCorps at the Harvard Art Museums: Tell your story
Corita Kent: Footnotes and Headlines at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study