The Icon and the Iconic

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The Icon and the Iconic

650 Parker Ave at Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94118
April 2nd, 2009 - July 7th, 2009
Opening: April 2nd, 2009 5:30 PM - 9:00 PM

Sun 2-5pm + by appointment
religion, Catholic, contemporary, video, christianity, iconic, ICONOGRAPHY, icons, ICON, mixed-media, video-art, pop, figurative, traditional, sculpture


For many the word icon first and foremost recalls the computer world: the imaged button to click for immediate results, after quick and satisfying visual recognition. For others it recalls the starlit realm the public envies or targets in modern film, fashion and politics: the Andy Warhol Marilyn or his series of electric chairs. But for those reared in the eastern Christian religious tradition, the icon represents the venerable image originally made by God, through whose faithful veneration creative humans strive to become most like (Gen. 1:26). In effect, the icon represents the risky paradox of making the invisible visible.

This exhibition explores the religious icon with its traditional techniques, media and subjects through examples from Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, Ethiopia and other sites. It addresses the disturbing political destruction of some such images (Petkov) and the re-thinking of others by the eye fixed on the modern gaze (Warhol). And it shows how the re-assembly of fragmented symbols, in part iconic, recalls the dissolution of the strict boundaries between the icon as a presumably static frontal confrontation and a moving, subjective performance (LaLonde and Becker). Even the more distant ethnic variations echo the traditional icon –Western religious subjects created in China (Ricci watercolors on silk) and the purity of a Russian icon bell silk-strapped to the Internet in San Francisco (Gurman) – draw upon the aura, energy and power of the icon to network across time and space the mysteries of life and death, which are simultaneously harrowing and comforting, hopefully divine and always human. Both the icon and its iconic variations search for windows to the beyond of sometimes distant shores, mirrors of the celestial or the evasive mystical and helpful screens to keep at bay or somehow control the overwhelming possibility of directly seeing beyond heaven – most especially God – and thereby dying (Gen. 32:30). Whatever the origin – whether religiously specific or not – the artistic memory searches, sometimes compulsively to bring heaven down to earth in manageable bites, to coach cautiously a desert of temptation back home, to at least the possibility of a temporary inner peace.


April 2nd Opening Reception Events*

5:30 - 6:15 pm Lecture: Hieromonk Juvenal Herrin, "The Use of the Icon in Devotion"

6:30 - 7:00 pm Concert: Fr. Stephen Meholick, Blagovest Bell Pealing and St. John of San Fracisco Men's Chorale

7:00 - 9:00 pm Gallery Reception

*all events are inside of St. Ignatius Church