A spotlight on ‘pop art nun’ Corita Kent
Visit Downtown LA’s Soho Warehouse to discover works by one of the lesser-known creators in the 1960s art movement
Thursday 21 September 2023 By Anastasiia Fedorova
To celebrate 20 years of Soho House in North America, we’re unveiling the curatorial process behind the art collections in our US Houses, including the recently refreshed Soho House New York and Soho House West Hollywood. It’s also a perfect moment to spotlight some of the works in our wider Soho House collection, many of which reflect historical moments of contemporary art in America, such as the pieces by Corita Kent at Soho Warehouse, which offer a glimpse into a lesser-known side of the pop art movement.
Kent was an artist, educator and advocate for social justice in the 1960s and 1970s.
At the age of 18, she entered the religious order, Immaculate Heart of Mary, where she ended up teaching, before becoming the head of the art department at Immaculate Heart College. Her work incorporated religious iconography alongside advertising images and slogans, popular song lyrics, biblical verses, and literature. Throughout the 1960s, her work became increasingly political, urging viewers to resist poverty, racism, and social injustice. She was commonly known by the moniker ‘pop art nun’, a seemingly unlikely counterpart to Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
While Kate Bryan, Soho House’s Global Director of Art, admits that purchasing works by a deceased artist is not very common for the Soho House collection, she was captivated by Kent’s role in the 1960s art scene. ‘I think it’s important to know that she was able to make these works while being in a position of an outsider of the art world, particularly in the 1960s, when it was very dominated by men, but also very bohemian and very outside counterculture,’ she explains. ‘It didn’t fit with someone who had taken religious orders, so there’s this amazing paradox at the heart of it. I think it’s really important to recognise that art is made by a wide variety of people.’
Kent’s preferred medium was screen printing – she was self-taught, and loved that the technique was so affordable and accessible for people of all walks of life. Full of bold colours and wide-ranging experimentation with typography, Kent’s works are part of the section in the Soho Warehouse collection that focuses on text-based art. It also includes the work of Dread Scott, Martine Syms, Glenn Ligon, Rose Salane, Christopher Wood, Stefan Brüggemann and Helen Cammock, among others. She continued creating art well after leaving the order in 1968, and even though her works are rooted in the messages and visual culture of that time, they still strike the viewer with timeless sincerity and hope.
‘The works carry messages of peace and love, which is very much in keeping with the time that she was making them in the 1960s,’ Bryan adds. ‘But they also are these fantastic, resonant messages about being alive, the idea of connectivity of all humans. Her message still holds a lot of power.’
Explore all of the art collections at our Houses around the world.