Saint Louis University’s Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) Fall 2011 exhibition will be a presentation of selected works by American artist Adrian Kellard (1959–91). Adrian Kellard: The Learned Art of Compassion opens September 24 and continues through December 11, 2011.
This installation process has been more involved than most at MOCRA. As happened with many visual artists who were struck down by AIDS in the first decade of the pandemic, the long-term disposition of his estate and works was somewhat ad hoc. Several of his works found their way into museum collections (including MOCRA’s), but many others have been safeguarded in the homes of various friends and family members. So, a certain amount of effort has been involved in locating and securing the loan of works in the exhibition.
Additionally, a number of the works are built up of multiple component pieces. In some cases, we’ve only had photos of previous installations or of the works set up in Kellard’s gallery to go on in reconstructing the works. It’s like assembling a large IKEA dining room set without the step-by-step instructions . . . that is, if IKEA’s wood products came carved in bold lines and painted in arresting yellows, reds, and teals. Kellard’s best-known work is in the stylistic tradition of German Expressionism. Household paint on pine panels was his primary medium, and his principal tool was an X-ACTO knife.
MOCRA’s installation team was recently assembling Kellard’s major altarpiece titled Healing . . . The Learned Art of Compassion. This large-scale work has an architectural quality, with a number of smaller components that come together in one grand statement. Each element, from the bold portrait of Christ to the decorative wooden fringe hanging from the canopy, contributes to the overall effect.
This work brings together many of Kellard’s common themes and sources, including visual quotes from works of religious art of the past, portraiture, Biblical references, personal biography, and an affinity to the work of the German Expressionists. Kellard’s work reflects his deep faith and a complicated set of identities: Irish-Italian ancestry, Catholic, gay. He brought all of these realities, and later on his struggle with AIDS, into his work.
MOCRA is fortunate to have the largest collection of Kellard’s work in any single art institution. Several works have been shown in MOCRA group exhibitions over the years, but now, 30 years after the identification of HIV and 20 years after Kellard’s death, we are pleased to present this solo exhibition including a number of Kellard’s most important works.
If you will be in the St. Louis region on Saturday, September 24, we hope you will join us for a free public opening reception from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Learn more about the exhibition on MOCRA’s website.
— David Brinker, Assistant Director