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Corita Kent
California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks, Ventura County, California
by Diane Calder

Corita Kent, “stop the bombing,” 1967, screenprint. Courtesy of Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles.

“Mass Appeal,” a little gem of a show that features a selection of over a dozen serigraphs by Corita Kent. It is as relevant today as it was when the ex-nun originally produced them in the 1960’s. Kent's work continues to inspire and activate viewers while appealing to hope and love in today’s challenging times. With titles such as “Black is Beautiful,” “King’s Dream,” and “Love Your Brother,” her bywords would not be out of place if hoisted on signs by those marching and calling out for change today. Essayist Joel Kuennen got it right when he wrote, “Sister Mary Corita worked miracles. She turned ads into art.” Her use of serigraphs grew out of her commitment to make work that was accessible in terms of affordability and visibility. Installed here, under glass with white mats against white walls, the brilliant colors and shapes of the letters in works such as “Tender Be” and “Shalom” are enhanced by the presence of the equally colorful geometric forms incorporated into Betty Gold’s sculptures, also on view. Especially effective is Kent's “Stop the Bombing” a red, white and blue print in which the compelling use of the lettering of its title creates a dramatic sense of spacial depth. Handwritten words within the red area at the bottom of the poster read in part, "I am in Vietnam. Who will console me? I am terrified of bombs of cold wet leaves and bamboo splinter in my feet, of a bullet cracking through the trees, across the world, killing me— there is a bullet in my eyes, so that all I see is pain. I am in Vietnam who will console me?”

California Museum of Art, Thousand Oaks

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