The Mission of Art

Alex Grey, Author, Alex Arey, Author, Shambhala, Author
Alex Grey, Author, Alex Arey, Author, Shambhala, Author Shambhala Publications $27.5 (280p) ISBN 978-1-57062-396-7
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-57062-545-9
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In this Technicolor manifesto calling for a renewed spiritual content in modern art, Grey argues that contemporary artists have lost touch with the search for transcendence that infused the work of such masters as Michelangelo, van Gogh, Pollock and Kahlo. In a freewheeling narrative, Grey compares what he sees as the materialism and moral irresponsibility of most contemporaryart to his own creative endeavors, which draw on meditation, visualization, shamanic drumming, Taoism, yoga and Tibetan Buddhism. The book is bursting with his own mystical paintings and drawings, depicting floating cosmic eyes, the soul leaving the body of a dying person, haloed skulls, metaphysical thought-diagrams, human torsos lit from within by chakras or psychic energy centers. If this sounds reminiscent of the psychedelic 1960s, that may be because, as Grey freely admits, ""sacramental"" hallucinogens like LSD and mescaline have been a source of inspiration for him since the mid-1970s. He's found equal inspiration, however, in the works of Blake, Kandinsky and the drawings he made of Michelangelo's sculptures and paintings during a 1994 trip to Italy. Grey acknowledges a big debt to transpersonal psychology, the study of manifold dimensions of human consciousness, a science whose leading philosopher, Wilber, contributes the hyperbolic foreword (""Alex Grey might be the most significant artist alive""). As a hodgepodge of art-historical analysis, social commentary and spiritual philosophizing, the book is so idiosyncratic, and sometimes so preachy, that many readers will find it difficult to penetrate. But Grey's insistence that art should be a revelatory and healing force in our culture should resonate with artists in virtually any discipline. (Jan.)
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