Happy Easter and Passover! For Holy Week, I wanted to feature some of my thoughts on my first, but long anticipated visit to MOCRA.
When we look at the art of the past from the West, it is overwhelmingly religious, whether inspired by Greek and Roman myth or Judeo-Christian iconography. But, if I asked you to name the last religious artwork you saw, you might be hard pressed to come up with something.
And that’s where the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) comes in. Located on the St. Louis University (SLU) Campus, MOCRA is an interfaith museum housed in a former chapel, the Fusz Memorial Chapel. The chapel is a fantastic set-up for an art museum – there is the central nave (the long and narrow, hall-like center of a church) with radiating side chapels, traditionally set-up for individual prayer or meditation, and now acting as mini galleries within the larger gallery, in which additional thematics can be explored.
One of the most stunning and emotion-evoking works is Michael Tracy’s Triptych: Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Stations of the Cross for Latin America (above) is a monumental, 3-panel, abstract rendering of the scenes of: Jesus being nailed to the cross, Jesus dying on the cross, and Jesus being brought down from the cross. The triptych, occupying a central spot in the museum at the altar, is a powerful piece: using dark acrylics, glass, pottery, and hair, the work radiates pain, suffering, and pure, raw human emotion even without any figures depicted. Tracy’s work is on long-term loan, and the art shown in the side chapels, ranging from contemporary Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish art, rotates about each semester
The current special exhibition at MOCRA is Archie Granot: The Paper Haggadah, up through 20 May, which features small-scale but incredibly colorful, detailed and multi-layered paper cut-outs, each with text that signifies a different aspect of the Jewish tradition of Seder, or the re-telling of the story of Exodus. The method of paper-cutting is traditional, as are the texts, but instead of using traditional symbols, Granot uses geometric, sometimes Fauvist-colored shapes to surround the calligraphic text, giving a revered tradition a distinctly contemporary look and a mood of joy.
MOCRA is located at 3700 West Pine Mall within the St. Louis University Campus. MOCRA is open Tuesday-Sunday (but not on Easter), 11-4 and is free. Archie Granot: The Paper Haggadah continues at MOCRA through 20 May, 2012.