The Big G Stands for Goodness: Corita Kent's 1960s Pop

November 16–December 20, 2000
Beaver College Art Gallery


Beaver College Art Gallery is pleased to present "The Big G Stands for Goodness: Corita Kent's 1960s Pop, curated by Los Angeles-based critic Michael Duncan. On view from November 16 through December 20, 2000, the show opens with a lecture by Duncan on Thursday evening, November 16, at 6:30 PM in Stiteler Auditorium followed immediately by a reception. Admission is free.

"The Big G Stands for Goodness: Corita Kent's 1960s Pop" features 50 works surveying the disarmingly engaging, formally inventive silkscreen prints from the 1960s by Sister Mary Corita Kent (1918–1986). Juxtaposed with these works will be pieces by 17 contemporary Los Angeles artist who use a similar approach to popular culture and formal experimentation with the visual display of texts. As well as pointing to the extraordinary sophistication of Corita's 1960s work, the contemporary portion of the exhibition serves  as a mini-survey of contemporary Los Angeles art that has utilized text in visually inventive ways.

A teacher at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, and a civil rights-, feminist-, and anti-war-activist, Corita (she resigned her religious order in 1968) was one of the most popular American graphic artists of the 1960s and 1970s, making hundreds of prints espousing her humanist causes. Creating her own liberal Catholic version of Pop in the early 1960s, Sr. Corita mixed swatches of bright, saturated color with fragments of graphics and type appropriated from supermarket items. With a deadpan literalism and an ear for language rivaling that of her contemporary Angelino, Ed Rusha, Corita's prints confirm her upbeat theology by sampling and morphing the well-known advertising phrases of her time, such as "The big G stands for Goodness" (General Mills) and "Put a tiger in your tank" (Esso gasoline). Logos and slogans promoting "Wonder" bread, "Humble" oil, "Sunkist" lemons, "Safeway" supermarkets, and even "Lark" cigarettes become visual and verbal puns endorsing her all-embracing humanitarianism. Interrupting our subliminal responses to familiar slogans, her graphic transformations borrow promises that the marketplace cannot deliver. A true subversive, Corita de-objectifies advertising, usurping its appeal from her own moral concerns.

Works by several contemporary Los Angeles artists in the exhibition share auspicious affinities with Corita's prints. Her playful application of block letters, word fragments, mirrored writing, and warped texts diversely parallel those of Larry Johnson, Karen Carson, and Lari Pittman. Passages from texts by Gertrude Stein, Samual Beckett, Camus, E.E. Cummings, John Lennon, and Ugo Betti are often scrawled across Corita's works in a style that prefigures that of Raymond Pettibon. Moreover, Mike Kelley's felt banners from the late 1980s (one of which is included in the show), were directly spun off her work, offering their own twisted celebration of the abject.

"The Big G Stands for Goodness: Corita Kent's 1960s Pop" is curated by Michael Duncan, independent curator and writer whose recent exhibitions include "Love Flight of a Pink Candy Heart: A Compliment to Florine Stettheimer" at Holly Solomon Gallery in New York (1995), and "Pavel Tchelitchew: Interior Landscapes" at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York (1998). Duncan is currently Corresponding Editor for Art in America magazine, and has also written for the magazines Buzz, L.A. Weekly, Frieze, New Art Examiner, Art issues, and Flash Art, among others.

"The Big G Stands for Goodness: Corita Kent's 1960s Pop" originated at the Luckman Fine Arts Gallery at California State University, Los Angeles in January 2000. It has since traveled to the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, Utah; the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and the Art Gallery at the University of Texas, San Antonio. 

Due to the large scale of the exhibition, part of the show will be presented in the Atwood Gallery on the ground floor of Beaver College's Atwood Library, a short walk from the Beaver College Art Gallery. The presentation of this touring exhibition in Glenside is funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Advisory Board and Friends of Beaver College Art Gallery.