press release

18th Street Arts Center presents “Does Religion Kill?,” a group exhibition running November 4 to December 22, 2006. Organized by artist/concept engineer Ronald Lopez, the exhibition features artists primarily from the Los Angeles area who come from such diverse backgrounds as the Philippines, Honduras, the Netherlands, Iran, Mexico and Africa. The ArtNight reception event will be held Saturday, November 4, 2006, 6:00–8:30 pm, including open studios and an opening reception for “20/20,” an exhibit of new Polaroid portraits curated by Michael Sakamoto. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm. 18th Street Arts Center is located at 1639 18th Street, Santa Monica. For more details, go to www.18thstreet.org.

According to a 1999 report written by John Orr of USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, “In recent years, Los Angeles has surpassed London and New York as the world’s most religiously pluralist metropolitan region. With more than 600 separate faith communities established in Los Angeles neighborhoods, many with different languages and a large number of racial/ethnic enclaves, most clergy and lay people remain strangers to those of differing faiths.” Does Religion Kill? is a response to these statistics. Created as a catalytic forum for exchange, the exhibition will include an interactive dialogue wall in which Los Angeles public of various faiths and ideologies are invited to contribute thoughts about the theme.

The inspiration for this show, originally birthed in Istanbul where an obvious clash of civilizations exists, has now uniquely manifested itself through a pluralist American, and more specifically Angelino, perspective. The artists represent a wide array of ethnic backgrounds, approaches to the topic – both direct and ambiguous - and mediums utilized. All the works, however, converge in the way each artist has reached from a very personal core to boldly grapple with an extremely provocative question.

Ramsey Robinson’s raw ability, through the use of video manipulation and private audio conversation, to freeze frame fleeting moments of pure human emotion, helps his work connect with the viewer on a primal level, making it a personal approach to a very personal topic. Marquis Lewis’s bold willingness to take risks, apparent by the uproar elicited after creating a traditional representation of La Virgin in which Mary’s face is replaced by a grotesque skull, makes him a compelling choice. Noah Haytin’s western roots mixed with his use of Islamic iconography make his presentation of the positive/negative dichotomy of religion a fresh take on the question. While angels are the pervasive theme in the current works of Melissa Trochez, the whimsical way in which she combines paint and textile, aid her attempts to contrast religious experience with personal spiritual encounter. The piece chosen from Christine Morla’s very personal and therapeutic series of masochistic drawings perhaps contains the most layers of possible interpretation as it experiments with thresholds of pain and intricacies of the human breaking point. Katrina Erikson, with her clean execution and use of negative space, effectively demands the viewer’s participation to decode her message and to awe at her transformation of the benign into something forcefully significant.

Burt Payne’s creation of the iconic Last Supper on something as nonreligious and discardable as an aluminum tv tray, is a clever, satirical statement. A noted and controversial political activist, unfeigning in the face of explosive reaction to her works, Persian-born Amitis Motevalli is likewise anticipated to create a very satirical and provocative installation piece. Bill Barminski’s piece, in which the thick, red letters “LIES” steal attention from a fading image of The Lord’s Supper, is bold and unapologetic. As a young, second-generation Iranian woman in America, Samira Yamin uses symbolism in her content and medium to tackle pertinent issues in the clash between East and West with a fresh and centrific perspective. It is an honor to include a work by acclaimed artist Raymond Pettibon in which he challenges a traditional religious perspective on creation. Finally, Zara Kreigstein’s ability to exaggerate and bring to light what is normally hidden or taboo makes her an obvious choice to elicit controversial discussion.

Ronald Lopez (Curator/Artist) was born in 1974 in East Los Angeles. He has worked in the public art arena for over 10 years and has helped to implement city art programming in Los Angeles and in Istanbul, Turkey. He currently curates art shows in both of these cities and represents artists. Perhaps Mr. Lopez’s greatest accomplishment to date is being the founder and executive director of Aden Art Center established in Istanbul, Turkey in 2002. It is there that he created a national program including art workshops for young artists, an emerging artist program, an international program that includes an artist-in-residence program and an exchange component for festivals. As an artist, Mr. Lopez has done numerous murals and art commissions and, in 2005, his social art project entitled “Does Religion Kill?” was held in conjunction with the 9th Istanbul Biennial.

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Does Religion Kill?
Kurator: Ronald Lopez

Künstler: Bill Barminski, Katrina Erickson, Noah Haytin, Zara Kriegstein, Marquis Lewis, Christine Morla, Amitis Motevalli, Burt Payne, Raymond Pettibon, Ramsey Robinson, Melissa Trochez, Samira Yamin