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Corita Kent and the Language of Pop

Corita Kent (American, 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 headed the art department at the college there from 1964 to 1968, developing many aspects of her signature style while working alongside her students. The screenprints she created during the 1960s are typical examples of pop art, embodying the vivid palette, focus on everyday subjects, and mass-produced quality of ephemeral objects. Corita Kent and the Language of Pop examines Kent’s screenprints as well as her films, installations, Happenings, and her 1971 mural painted on the Boston Gas (now National Grid) tank—a roadside landmark in Boston. The exhibition frames Kent’s work within the pop movement while also considering other prevailing artistic, social, and religious movements of the time. In particular, the exhibition explores how Kent’s work both responded to and advanced changes then facing the Catholic Church, brought about by the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). More than 60 of Kent’s prints will appear alongside over 60 works of art by her prominent contemporaries such as Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol, along with a selection of films, books, drawings, photographs, sculpture, and a textile.

The accompanying catalogue, published by the Harvard Art Museums and distributed by Yale University Press, offers nearly 90 illustrated entries and four essays by distinguished scholars and fills a gap in the scholarship about Kent’s work. The exhibition will travel to the San Antonio Museum of Art (February 13 through May 8, 2016) after its time in Cambridge.

Organized by the Harvard Art Museums and curated by Susan Dackerman, the former Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Curator of Prints at the Harvard Art Museums (2005–2014) and current consultative curator of prints.

The project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Additional funding for the project is provided by Barbara Ketcham Wheaton and the late Robert Bradford Wheaton, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, Jeanne and Geoff Champion, John Stuart Gordon, Marjorie B. and Martin Cohn, Ellen von Seggern and Jan Paul Richter, the Rosenblatt Fund for Post-War American Art, the Anthony and Celeste Meier Exhibitions Fund, and the Harvard Art Museums Mellon Publication Funds, including the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund.

Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.
Relevant research areas: North America, 20th Century, Screenprinting

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