Beyond the Age of Reason at the San Diego Art Institute

Eleanor Antin. Beyond the Age of Reason. San Diego Art Institute. Photos Courtesy Debby and Larry Kline

Beyond the Age of Reason

San Diego Art Institute
on view through October 31st


by Genie Davis

Larry and Debby Kline work as a team: as artists, curators, and on interviews about their work.

Their new collaboratively curated exhibition, Beyond the Age of Reason, will hold its opening reception Sepentember 15 at the San Diego Art Institute. The expansive show features the work of 20 different artists, each exploring the connections between religion and art.

Artists include Eleanor Antin, Wayne Martin Belger, Adam Belt, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Einar de la Torre, Jamex de la Torre, Stephen Douglas, Steve Eilenberg, Scott Froschauer, Dave Ghilarducci, Cole Goodwin, Ichiro Irie, Beliz Iristay, Paula Levine, Maria Munroe, Cheryl Nickel, Sean Noyce, Ruben Ochoa, Erika Rothenberg, and Kristine Schomaker.

The exhibition is predicated on the idea that artists and their images help to shape religion. All of the artists here are taking on issues of faith and spirituality, in a show that almost seems to transcend time and definitely crosses cultures and religions.

According to the Klines, “This show covers a large cross-section of ideologies. Some works could be described as deeply spiritual, while others are pointed social commentaries on the world in which we live. The latter category explores our inner conflicts, that we believe ourselves to be rational despite knowledge to the contrary, that we feel that we have ethical and moral virtues while we conveniently ignore those in need. Religion also shares these dualities, such as touting virtuous behavior while instructing believers to punish or destroy those outside the religion.”

Michelangelo Buonarroti. Beyond the Age of Reason. San Diego Art Institute. Photos Courtesy Debby and Larry Kline

Adding yet more depth to the exhibition, the works address the myths that are woven through religion and the ethos or truths confronting both artists and viewers.

“Myth is open to interpretation, and unfortunately, so are truths, but they are still the underpinnings of religious belief. The nuances of belief can either unite or divide individual, families and nations. The nuances can lead to peace or more often, war,” the Klines relate. “We believe -pun intended – that the artists reflect the larger populace that struggles with the concept of belief.”

Within that struggle, religious iconography still plays a strong role in each artist’s work.

While the exhibition space is large, the Klines say “We could fill a 50,000 sq ft space if we had it. We have never encountered a venue that is too large. Instead, we often feel disappointed that there are so many amazing artists that must we leave out,” and this show is no exception.

Among the wide ranging works they reveal no favorites, explaining that for them “Each work adds something incredibly poignant to the dialog that the show has with viewers and is selected because it fills a niche in that conversation.”

Some works were difficult to obtain, and the pair explains, “We are beside ourselves with joy that they made it into the show. Wayne Martin Belger’s work just became available as he was on retainer with the Smithsonian. We snagged it between his work with the Smithsonian Institute and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.” This exhibit marks the first time this project has ever been shown.

Wayne Martin Belger. Beyond the Age of Reason. San Diego Art Institute. Photos Courtesy Debby and Larry Kline

Eleanor Antin’s work was also a challenge to obtain; it quickly became the “lynch pin of the exhibition by using the theme of Roman Allegories … she is recontextualizing Ancient Rome in Southern California, so they have an element of the absurd while delivering timeless truths.”

The pair considers their curatorial practice as an extension of their work as artists. They’ve curated exhibitions at venues including California Center for the Arts Museum, Grossmont College Art Gallery, Oceanside Museum of Art and Southwestern College Art Gallery.

The rich and often contemplative works here seem highly prescient. “If the work is prescient, then we must ask ourselves what the artists are telling us about the future. Is it that belief will always remain a part of our consciousness? Is it that religious practice has been usurped by popular iconography? Or does it show the potential for all facets of belief to meld together to form a new basis for tradition and truth?”

The exhibit has been developing since 2015; its long gestation shows in the care cultivated in shaping it. The majority of the included artists are from San Diego, supporting SDAI’s mission to include area artists. However, the curators reached out further to include those in Baja, Mexico, LA, San Francisco, and Tucson.

“Thematic exhibitions are challenging because you rarely get to see the breadth of any one artist, and it often obfuscates the thread of intent from their full bodies of work,” they note. “Each artist had something intrinsically associated with the idea of the exhibition, and they were people who in our opinion, talked about some aspect of religion or spirituality through their work.”

Beautiful, powerful, and unique, blending modern technology with traditional mediums, the Klines have curated an exhibition that will resonate with viewers drawn to the art, spiritual representation, and the fascinating space where the two intersect.

● The exhibition runs through October 31st.

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