Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Art for God, "Undefeated"

In the comments to Ron DiCianni, Paintings (below), Steve Prothero points me to another essential work of modern Christ kitsch, "Undefeated":

I can't find an artist's name to go with "Undefeated" on the site that sells prints of it, "Art for God"; they appear to be an evangelical art collective that produces Christian imagery "for the 21st century." Individual creators aren't important to them, apparently, since to their way of thinking, all credit goes to God. That'd be impressive if the work wasn't so awful, inspired, it seems, by the soulless mass-produced crap churned out by purely commercial enterprises, posters of kittens on tree limbs and the New York City skyline. The artists responsible for "Undefeated" are so intent on blending into the culture that they've erased individual style. All that's left is a Beegee on steroids. Who is this picture for? The fellas, who don't want a sissy-Christ, as Hubert Humphrey once called the Jesus of liberal churches? Or the ladies, who want a Christ who's all man and all soul?

If anyone could answer that question, besides the artborg that created "Undefeated," it'd be Steve Prothero, author of a fascinating book called American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon. Steve has a new book coming out next month, Religious Literacy, which will be a response to what he calls "a nation of religious illiterates." Presumably, that includes even the art collective behind "Undefeated," whose 21st century ambitions are better described as a revival of the 19th century "muscular Christianity" movement, a rather ugly response to the idea that industrialization was leading to office-coddled girlie men incapable of pursuing British empire and American manifest destiny. Steve also has a new blog, at which you can find his controversial Harvard Divinity Bulletin article "Belief Unbracketed."

15 comments:

Lept said...

By no means of the same American vintage, is a Russian/South African artist (featured on the walls of Alex's parent's flat in Kubrick's 'Clockwork Orange'): one Vladimir Tretchikoff. He produced a bizarre a Ten Commandments 'cycle' of which this example presents a profoundly mixed message!

Jeff Sharlet said...

I like this description from Tretchikoff's bio:

"The first series of very high quality reproductions were done by the Repro House Frost & Reed in London and was sold many a time in Lingerie Departments of Departmental Stores. The reproductions were so popular that it was said once that, Tretchikoff was second to Picasso in his popularity in this field."

Picasso, of course, was the undisputed king of lingerie department reproductions.

shannon said...

i think more christian art needs to incorporate floating eyeballs.

Archana said...

That is a fascinating painting and post - thanks. On a much lighter note, makes me think of Talladaga Nights and the prayer scene (where they all decide which Jesus they'd like to pray to - the baby Jesus, the teenage Jesus, Ninja Jesus, etc.)... Some levity in an otherwise very serious conversation about the direction of American fundamentalism...

Stephen Prothero said...

The artist's name is Stephen Sawyer. His web site is http://www.art4god.com.

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