The New Age movement emerged in the 1960s and provided alternative approaches to traditional Western culture, from yoga to spirituality and environmentalism. A new exhibition at DePaul Art Museum, “New Age, New Age: Strategies for Survival,” will examine how contemporary artists are appropriating and critiquing New Age philosophies and practices regarding social change and empowerment. The exhibition, which includes works by 27 artists, opens April 25 and runs through Aug. 11 on DePaul University’s Lincoln Park Campus.
“The New Age movement embodied a complicated conflation of politics, religion, science, social communities, art, music and self-realization,” says Julie Rodrigues Widholm, director and chief curator of DePaul Art Museum and curator of the exhibition. “Fifty years after the first New Age movement, many of the problems society grappled with — sexism, racism, and environmental welfare — remain major issues."
“New Age, New Age” gives special focus to how women, artists of color and the LGBTQ community use these alternative practices as tools of resistance, empowerment, community, healing and self-care.
“We are in an era of skyrocketing depression, anxiety and social divisions. People are seeking ways to find meaning, center themselves and connect with each other ranging from grassroots internet brujas and tarot readers to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and meditation workshops for CEOs,” Widholm says. “It’s been interesting to see the rapid rise of these practices over the last few years since I began thinking about this exhibition and the complicated, and often contradictory, intersection of science and belief.”
Works are organized within broad themes, including metaphysical practices, connecting with the natural environment and imagined communes. Featured artists include Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes, Lise Haller Baggesen, Alun Be, Elijah Burgher, D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, Whit Forrester, Desirée Holman, Cathy Hsiao, Michiko Itatani, Rashid Johnson, Marva Lee Pitchford-Jolly, Jenny Kendler, Liz Magic Laser, Matt Morris, Shana Moulton, Heidi Norton, Tony Oursler, Mai-Thu Perret, Robert Pruitt, Bob Ross, Luis A. Sahagun, Mindy Rose Schwartz, Suzanne Treister, Rhonda Wheatley, Megan Whitmarsh and Jade Gordon, and Saya Woolfalk.
Works in the exhibition include:
- Four paintings by Bob Ross, on view for the first time in a contemporary art museum in the U.S. Ross is best known for his role as the host of the wildly successful how-to television show, “The Joy of Painting,” which became a worldwide sensation due to the artist’s soothing voice, positive outlook and iconic permed hair. Ross, who died in 1995, took an interest in representational oil painting and developed his signature “mighty mountains” and “happy little trees.”
- “The New Black Yoga,” a video by Chicago-born filmmaker Rashid Johnson, inspired by the artist’s own yoga practice that began while living in Berlin, where language barriers made learning the exercises particularly difficult. The video features five black men performing improvised movements drawn from martial arts and dance, as well as the artist’s childhood memories of the Jesse White Tumblers.
- Futuristic figures, created by Desiree Holman, whose work investigates the unconscious fantasies and desires that structure our images of the future and our beliefs about what lies beyond the visible world.
- “Advanced Potions,” a tabletop array of bottles recalling an apothecary or vanity, which includes a bottle of Angelique Eau de Parfum by Liz Moores. Artist and curator Matt Morris uses fragrances to evoke ideas, memories and emotions. For this exhibition, the artist selected Angelique Eau de Parfum and asked museum staff to wear the perfume while in the galleries. The collection of curios finds Morris exercising the curatorial aspect of his practice, as he sources meaningful items from other artists and friends.
- Ceramic art by Marva Lee Pitchford-Jolly, who has empowered generations of young artists as a professor at Chicago State University and was instrumental in the founding of Sapphire & Crystals, a group of black female artists in Chicago. “Spirit Woman” exemplifies the artist’s use of clay to imagine the divine feminine and other-worldly figures.
- A site-specific installation from Rhonda Wheatley’s “Hybrid Device” series, which the artist creates by combining vintage electronics with natural and artificial materials associated with spirituality, such as crystals, plants and tarot cards. Titled “Energy Grid for Dissolving Blocks and Barriers,” the installation is intended to “help individuals dissolve blocks within themselves that have prevented them from moving forward and realizing their potential,” said the artist.
- Multimedia art by Saya Woolfalk, who imagines futuristic, women-centered communities and explores narratives related to utopian possibilities of cultural hybridity. The works on view are all from Woolfalk’s “ChimaTEK” series, depicting a fictional race of people whose genetic mutation spurs a cultural transformation.