Art

Contemporary Takes on the Self in a Manhattan Church

'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Sculpture by Lori Merhige in ‘On the Inner and Outer Self’ at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Artistic interpretations of self are inhabiting the nave of Manhattan’s Church of St. Paul the Apostle, with contemporary sculpture, painting, collage, and other media installed alongside the candlelit chapels and religious icons. On the Inner and Outer Selfpresented by the collective Openings, is their ninth annual group exhibition in the 19th-century church.

The 28 artists include a range of responses, and like any large group show the strengths vary. However, for each piece, the surrounding architecture is stunning and the Roman Catholic religious statuary and contemplative space is an unconventional contrast to the art.

Near the entrance, Lori Merhige has a dynamic sculpture of a length of fabric twisted into a knot, considering our chaotic lifelines, and nearby Kylie Lockwood’s tiny “Hand Fragment” made of pigmented porcelain is broken in front of an old war memorial. Joy Curtis has two haunting fabric works illuminated below Stations of the Cross, one formed with indigo dye and gravity, the other molded like a disembodied ribcage with frayed edges. And in one of the simplest pieces, McIntyre Parker has just a small redwood box quietly resting on the stairs leading to the altar, like an offering.

St. Paul the Apostle already has some unconventional permanent art, like Lumen Martin Winter’s massive “Angel of the Resurrection,” and a sculpture of Jesus incorporating a real T-rex fossil by Alan Detrich. Like St. John the Divine further uptown, which in 2013 hosted South African artist Jane Alexander’s anthropomorphic sculptures, and Chinese artist Xu Bing’s huge Phoenix sculptures last year, the setting contributes a lot to the experience of exploring the art embedded in the spiritual space. Below are some photographs from On the Inner and Outer Self.

'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Joy Curtis, “Spirit Frequency”
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Kylie Lockwood, “Hand Fragment” (2015), pigmented porcelain and nail polish
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Joy Curtis, “Rust Never Sleeps”
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
McIntyre Parker, “MP 2014” (2014), redwood
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Guy Ben-Ari, “Opening a Door” (2014), oil on canvas
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Cut-out installation by Daniel Mantilla (at right)
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Nikita Vishnevskiy, “B” (2015), nylon, cotton, silk thread, resin, brads, eye pins, hair, pigments
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Buzz McCall, “Reach,” three silver gelatin prints (at right)
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Nikita Vishnevskiy, “Ascent (Wheaton Station)” (2013), HD video loop
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Two photographs from Katya Pronin’s “The Gardeners” series on men who studied landscaping with the Horticultural Society after serving sentences on Rikers Island or other programs
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Ellie Krakow, “Arm Armature” (2015), glazed ceramics, c-prints, and wood
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Peter Hoffmeister, “Web” (2015), paper, acrylic paint, glue (upper right)
'On the Inner and Outer Self' at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle
Church of St. Paul the Apostle

On the Inner and Outer Self continues through October 22 at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle (corner of West 60th Street and Columbus Avenue, Upper West Side Manhattan).

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