Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Museum of Art



Steve Christensen

Post-World War II Artists Headline New LUMA Exhibition

Back to the Future Opens Saturday, September 12


CHICAGO, August 4, 2009 – Back to the Future: Alfred Jensen, Charmion von Wiegand, Simon Gouverneur, and the Cosmic Conversation is coming to the Loyola University Museum of Art. The exhibition, which includes fifty-six paintings and drawings that examine the similarities between three disparate post–World War II artists, will be on view at the museum from Saturday, September 12, through Sunday, November 15, 2009.

The exhibition is a re-examination of three artists (Alfred Jensen, Charmion von Wiegand, and Simon Gouverneur) whose work harnessed the symbolic power of signs and systems culled from ancient cultures, indigenous religions, science, and mathematics. All three artists had similar approaches, derived from a strong impulse for research and erudition, which were motivated by profound spiritual concerns. These similarities prompted them to draw on many of the same iconographic sources, including hieroglyphs, temple plans, ancient solar and lunar calendars, magic squares, astrological charts, Theosophy, the I Ching, numerical systems, and color theory.   

The Artists
Jensen, von Wiegand, and Gouverneur all lived urbane and well-traveled lives, and their art was stylistically different. Jensen was well known for his heavily impastoed multi-panel paintings; von Wiegand for her flat, cooler palette of geometric forms; and Gouverneur for his use of signs, symbols, and colors associated with indigenous cultures. Yet, in the end, all were influenced by their investigations into diverse spiritual pathways in their attempts to discover a universal order and the “monad,” or universal oneness that many faiths have at the core of belief.

These interests were in direct contrast to the pervasive currents in the post-war art world of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, which made their work hard to categorize. They were, especially in the case of Jensen and von Wiegand, searching for the early origins of Modernism and the Absolute, as espoused by Kasimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, and Piet Mondrian.

Exhibition Details
A full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition with essays by curator Carol Celentano and writer Lynn Gamwell, PhD. The exhibition is partially funded by the Judith Rothschild Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art, with additional program support from the Illinois Arts Council.
The exhibition was organized with the assistance of the artists’ estates; Curator’s Office, Washington, DC; PaceWildenstein Gallery, New York; Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Studio Museum in Harlem; the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

Public Programs

Curator-led Walk-thru
September 12, at 1 p.m.
LUMA, 820 N. Michigan Avenue

Learn about the artists featured in Back to the Future and gain insight into how the exhibition was organized. Curator Carol Celentano will lead the discussion. This event is free with museum admission, and open to the public.

Spiritual Art in the Age of Science
October 6, at 6 p.m.
LUMA, 820 N. Michigan Avenue

Artists Alfred Jensen, Charmion von Wiegand, and Simon Gouverneur were heirs to a tradition of abstract artists who created paintings of geometric and biomorphic shapes and symbols in their attempt to represent ultimate reality, which they understood to be spiritual in nature. In this illustrated lecture, Lynn Gamwell, PhD, will describe the cultural matrix in which they worked, including the rise of science, the decline of organized religion, and the search for new ways to create spiritual art for a secular age. This event is free and open to the public.
Theosophy-Spiritual Insight Behind the Origins of Abstract Art 
October 13, at 6 p.m.
LUMA, 820 N. Michigan Avenue

Wassily Kandinsky, a major figure in abstract art, was deeply influenced by Theosophy. Through his contact with this spiritual philosophy, he became interested in perceiving and depicting the inner life, rather than mere external form. In his talk, Dr. Pablo Sender will explore the basic theosophical ideas that inspired the artist, as well as their influence on the way we perceive reality. Dr. Sender is a microbiologist with a PhD in bio-sciences and he has been a member of the Theosophical Society in Argentina since 1996. This event is free and open to the public.

The Seldoms
October 24, at 3 p.m.
LUMA, 820 N. Michigan Avenue

Three company members from The Seldoms, Paige Cunningham, Amanda McAlister, and Philip Elson, will address the images and processes of the artists in Back to the Future, creating three new, original contemporary dance works that respond to these vibrant, colorful, and symbolically rich abstract painters. This event is free with museum admission, and open to the public. 
Art and Incarnation
October 27, at 6 p.m.
LUMA, 820 N. Michigan Avenue

The artists featured in Back to the Future were influenced by the modernist painters Kasimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, and Wassily Kandinsky. Join us for a lecture by Dr. Andrew J. McKenna, Loyola professor of French literature, as he examines how the extent of the spiritual claims of these artists is in inverse proportion to the recognizable figural content of their works. This event is free and open to the public.
The Seldoms
November 3, at 6 p.m.
LUMA, 820 N. Michigan Avenue

For details, please see October 24 event description. 
The Creative Power of Thought
November 10, at 6 p.m.
LUMA, 820 N. Michigan Avenue

Theosophy teaches that thought itself has a formative power—that what we think directly affects the world in which we live and the people who surround us. Our thoughts create subtle forms that have been observed and described by a number of psychics. Various modern artists have blended these forms with their own in their attempts to depict the influence of the inner worlds on their canvases. Dan Noga will visit LUMA and discuss the creative power of thought from the Theosophical viewpoint, showing examples of the painted renditions of “thought forms” that influenced the work of Wassily Kandinsky. Mr. Noga has studied metaphysics and esoteric teachings for 12 years, focusing on the teachings of Theosophy for the past three. This event is free and open to the public.

About LUMA
Opened in 2005, the Loyola University Museum of Art is dedicated to exploring, promoting, and understanding art and artistic expression that illuminates the enduring spiritual questions of all cultures and societies. As a museum with an interest in education and educational programming, LUMA reflects the University’s Jesuit mission and is dedicated to helping people of all creeds explore the roots of their faith and spiritual quests. Located at Loyola University Chicago’s Water Tower Campus, the museum occupies the first three floors of the University’s historic Lewis Towers on Chicago’s famous Michigan Avenue. For more information, visit the museum’s website at LUC.edu/luma.

Art illuminating the spirit!