September 12, 2013
David Brinker
314-977-7170

MOCRA Celebrates 20 Years With 'Thresholds' Exhibition

The Museum of Contemporary Religious Art will open Part One of its two-part exhibition with an opening reception Sunday, Sept. 22.

Consecrations
Installation view of Consecrations: The Spiritual in Art in the Time of AIDS, at MOCRA, 1994. Photo by Cheryl Ungar. Visible are works by Ken Chu, Gryphon Blackswan, Carolyn Jones, Ross Bleckner, Louise Fishman, Juan Gonzalez, Mark Calderon, Thomas Skomski, Don Eddy, Joseph Raffael, Max Gimblett, Tobi Kahn, Daniel Goldstein, and Michael Tracy.

The year 2013 marks twenty years since the opening of Saint Louis University's Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) as the world's first interfaith museum of contemporary art that engages the religious and spiritual dimensions. MOCRA celebrates this milestone anniversary with a two-part exhibition titled Thresholds: MOCRA at 20.

Part One of the exhibition includes works by 41 artists from MOCRA's first decade; Part Two, planned for spring 2014, will cover MOCRA's second decade. The artists hail from the United States, Germany and Australia, and work in media including painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, video and more.

Part One of Thresholds begins with a free public opening reception from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 15. Regular museum hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free, though there is a suggested donation of $5 or $1 for students and children. Call 314-977-7170 or visit mocra.slu.edu for more information.

About the exhibition

On Feb. 14, 1993, the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) opened as the world's first interfaith museum of contemporary art. Housed in a spacious chapel that was used for more than 35 years by Jesuits studying philosophy at Saint Louis University, MOCRA has mounted nearly 50 exhibitions and presented the work of more than 200 artists who hail from across the globe and whose art represents a genuine engagement with the religious and spiritual dimensions. These artists come out of a variety of faith traditions, and in fact, a number of them are unaffiliated with any particular path. What they hold in common is a desire to explore the spiritual and religious dimensions, employing traditional media and imagery, as well as newer media and the visual vocabulary of today.

Part One of the 20th-anniversary exhibition, Thresholds: MOCRA at 20, includes works by 41 artists from MOCRA's first decade. The artists hail from the United States, Germany and Australia, and work in media including painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, video and more.

Limitations of space prevent the museum from including works by all of the gifted artists who have participated in exhibitions to date, but the pieces they are showing will give visitors some idea of the richness and diversity of expressions that the museum has been privileged to show in their explorations of this rich sector of contemporary art.

Among the works on display will be Lewis deSoto's massive 25-foot-long inflatable sculpture of the Paranirvana, or reclining Buddha (first shown at MOCRA in 2000), pieces by St. Louis metro area artists Jon Cournoyer, Sue Eisler, Steven Heilmer and Tim Liddy, and a selection of works from MOCRA's groundbreaking 1994 exhibition Consecrations: The Spiritual in Art in the Time of AIDS.

Terrence Dempsey, S.J., founding director of MOCRA, noted that the title of the exhibition points to a variety of meanings.

"For many of the artists, their work explores the boundary, sometimes distinct, sometimes porous, between mundane experience and the transcendent. In turn, the artists invite viewers to share in that passage," Dempsey said. "A threshold is also a point of meeting, the doorway where we pass into another's experience or way of life. It represents hospitality but also risk. As an interfaith venture, MOCRA seeks to bring both artists and viewers to the threshold of other people's experiences, to encounter unfamiliar traditions and to share our own."

Thresholds also marks a point of transition for MOCRA.

"It is an opportunity, 20 years into the journey, to take stock of where we have been and to prognosticate a bit about where we might be going," said Dempsey.

In his work Gitanjali, Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore writes, "I was not aware of the moment when I first crossed the threshold of this life. What was the power that made me open out into this vast mystery like a bud in the forest at midnight?"

With gratitude to the many people who have made MOCRA possible and sustained the museum over the years, audiences are invited to visit MOCRA for the first time or the 20th, and it is the museum's hope that when they cross MOCRA's threshold, they will experience hospitality, wonder, insight and renewal.

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