No Idols

The Missing Theology of Art

Thomas Crow

  • $30.00s paperback (9780909952990) Add to Cart
  • hardcover not available
  • Published: April 2017
  • Subject Listing: Art History / Australian and Oceanic Art; Art History / American Art
  • Bibliographic information: 200 pp., 50 color illus., 5 x 8 in.
  • Territorial rights: North American rights only
  • Distributed for: Power Publications
  • Contents

The first in the new Power Polemics series, Thomas Crow's No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art turns away from contemporary cultural theories to face a pervading blindspot in today's art-historical inquiry: religion. Crow pursues a perhaps unpopular notion of Christianity's continued presence in modern abstract art and in the process makes a case for art's own terrain of theology: one that eschews idolatry by means of abstraction. Tracking the original anti-idolatry controversy of the Jansenists, anchored in a humble still life by Chardin, No Idols sets the scene for the development of an art of reflection rather than representation, and divinity without doctrine. Crow's reinstatement of the metaphysical is made through the work of New Zealand artist Colin McCahon and American artists Mark Rothko, Robert Smithson, James Turrell, and Sister Mary Corita Kent. While a tightly selected group of artists, in their collective statute the author explores the proposal that spiritual art, as opposed to "a simulacrum of one," is conceivable for our own time.

"[Art is] probably the last remnant of magic we have left because we've jettisoned most of the magical beliefs that used to guide human behaviour or perceptions of the world, but in getting rid of all those things we also got rid of a dimension of what I would call a connection to the unknown. . . . It's to see beyond the immediate objects or fetishes that we put in our way and sometimes make to stand for something that in fact is incommensurably greater than anything we can contain or hold in our perception."
-Thomas Crow, Radio New Zealand, October 2016