The UK'S biggest-ever show of work by the pop artist, social activist and nun, Corita Kent, has opened at the House of Illustration, King's Cross, London. A contemporary of another Catholic artist, Andy Warhol, admired by Charles and Ray Eames, John Cage and Saul Bass, Corita's radical Pop Art brought the sublime to bear on the everyday.
Her joyful, subversive and - to some - controversial screen prints revolutionised typographic design, challenged the Catholic Church and offered a bold new perspective on misogyny, racism and war.
In the early 1960s, Corita Kent, a sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, juxtaposed religious texts with advertising slogans, capturing the clamour and commercialism of LA's post-WWII financial boom.
Her 1965 screenprint power up derived from a gasoline advert, while her 1967 work come alive appropriated the iconic Pepsi-Cola slogan as an exuberant affirmation.
Corita said of LA: "Up and down the highways we see words…that read almost like contemporary translations of the psalms for us to be singing on our way." However, her 1964 print in homage to 'Mary, the juiciest tomato of all,' was regarded as sacrilege by the church and banned from being displayed.
In the late 1960s, Corita increasingly used art as protest against racism, misogyny, poverty and war. Working within the confines of America's most conservative diocese, her voice was hugely influential in the country's anti-authority shift, capturing the spirit of the anti-Vietnam war movement, civil rights movement and feminism. Her 1969 screenprints layered documentary material from Life, Newsweek and Time magazines - Corita's "contemporary manuals of contemplation" - with song lyrics, poetry and quotes set against psychedelic day-glo colours. These include 1969's if i, promoting compassion in the face of violence after Martin Luther King's assassination.
Designed by the acclaimed Fraser Muggeridge studio, the exhibition features 70 screen prints showing the evolution of Corita's work.
The exhibition runs until 12 May 2019, from 10am - 6pm, at The House of Illustration, 2 Granary Square, King's Cross, London, N1C 4BH.
For more information visit the House of Illustration website
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