Heroes + Sheroes by Corita Kent

If there's any art that seems to truly speaks to me right now it's the work of Corita Kent (1918-1986) and her series, a set of "heroes and sheroes" that has just been created online from the Corita Art Center based in Los Angeles, California.

Corita Kent was an artist, educator and advocate for social justice who initially became a nun entering the religious order of Immaculate Heart of Mary, then eventually teaching at the college's art department. Throughout the 60s, her work became more political, exposing her audience to consider issues at the time including racism, poverty and injustice. 

Her use of vibrant colours, graphic typography featuring social and political movements is so inspiring right now given current events. 

"Between 1968 to 1969, Corita created a series of 29 prints that she identified as “a set of heroes and sheroes.” Produced shortly after she took sabbatical from Immaculate Heart College and subsequently left the order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, this series manifests a key turning point in Corita’s artistic output. While Corita never directly participated in the radical activities associated with many of her contemporaries of the religious left (figures such as Daniel Berrigan and groups like the Catonsville Nine), her heroes and sheroes works explicitly reflect the social and political movements of the decade, addressing topics such as Chicano awareness, civil rights, nuclear disarmament, and political assassinations while also incorporating imagery taken directly from mass media. Notable figures represented in this series include: Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Robert F. Kennedy, and Cesar Chavez."

Her DIY sensibility, teaching herself screenprinting, inspired by the pop art movement of the early 1960s, is especially exciting, although she also was influenced by medieval art and abstract expressionism. I am reminded a bit of the Ames Brother's work at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle when I see her work. 

In 1968 she left the order and moved to Boston where her work evolved, influenced by living in a new environment, a secular life and battles with cancer. She remained active in social causes until her death in 1986. She had created almost 800 serigraph editions, thousands of watercolours and many public and private commissions.

A sample of her work "Power Up" is also in Denmark at The Nivaagaard Art Collection through December 20, 2020 which is part of works from the collection of Danh Vo.

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Corita's "power up” is featured in "Danh Vo Presents" at The Nivaagaard Art Collection through December 20, 2020. Part of an ongoing collaboration between the Danh Vo and the Art Collection in his hometown of Nivå, this first exhibition presents works from Danh Vo’s own collection, including artists such as Corita, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Nancy Spero, all of which are of great importance to his own art. The exhibition highlights Vo’s work technique and thought process as he arranges the carefully selected works in an installation where they each borrow meaning from one another and, together, produce a work by Danh Vo himself. ... Photos by Nick Ash. Courtesy of the Nivaagaard, Denmark, 2020. ... @nivaagaard #danhvo @nancyspero @felixgonzaleztorres.foundation

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To see the series, Heroes + Sheroes online, visit corita.org.

Jan Halvarson

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