Body of Christ was an installation in the permanent collection gallery featuring two works by contemporary Spanish artist Javier Pérez. The cruciform hanging of Pérez’s three drawings of a head and two hands alluded to the image of the Crucifixion, while his life-sized bronze and parchment sculpture of a tree transforming into a skeleton form could be seen to reference Christ’s death on the wooden cross. Nancy Hanks Senior Curator Sarah Schroth placed Pérez’s works within the historical context of paintings and sculptures of the Crucifixion from the 12th through the 18th centuries in the museum’s permanent collection. Works ranged from bloody depictions of the tortured body of Christ to Crucifixes showing Christ with his eyes open, a Christ triumphant over death.
Pérez joins many contemporary artists who have used the Crucifix as subject matter, but it can become an emotional issue for some viewers. In November 2010, a video by the late David Wojnarowicz, A Fire in My Belly (with an image of ants crawling on a Crucifix), was pulled from an exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery after protests from two Republican congressmen and the president of the Catholic League.
Body of Christ helped provide an important context for a concurrent installation at the Ackland Art Museum at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, David Wojnarowicz ‘A Fire in My Belly’: Versions, Debates, Implications. Both Nasher and Ackland shows illustrated that the decorum of the Crucifixion image has always been a live issue, and that artists continue to be drawn to the iconic image of suffering, death and resurrection.
The installation at the Nasher Museum was made possible by Blake Byrne, T’57.
TOP: Javier Pérez, Trans(formationes), 2010. Bronze, parchment resin. On loan from Blake Byrne, T’57. Photo by J Caldwell.