Michael Petry celebrates the ceremonial, memorializes the mythical and acknowledges, honors and explores the deeper spirits within us whom we all feel and hear yet have always found hard to name. Our gods and our devils.— Stephen Fry
The Luce Center is hosting In League with Devils by Michael Petry, a leading multi-media artist, author, and director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in London. The exhibition in the Dadian Gallery runs through August 21st.
The Bible praises “the Living God” and decries the deities of surrounding cultures, from the Assyrians to the Greeks, as mere lifeless idols. Yet these forgotten gods—left for dead in the dustheap of history—are precisely the ones that interest Michael Petry.
I feel like an archaeologist sifting through the sands of time to uncover the old stories, the old
myths, the old beliefs on which modern believers act
reflects the artist.
I have bathed in the spirit of the ancients. Marduk and Thor, Brigit and Ra, Janus and Seth are only a few of the now mythologized gods of old. They are no longer held in the respect they were, but does that stop
them from being gods? Is it simply time that morphs a god into a myth, and if so what of the current gods, and devils? Will they too just become stories told around a camp fire?
Steeped in the history of religion, Petry’s exhibition finds the perfect home at Wesley Seminary, with its rich collection of ancient artifacts from the Middle East. With a keen eye for historic techniques and materials, Petry casts mysterious objects and ritual appurtenance from silver, gold, and bronze.
For his installation At the Foot of the Gods, Petry cast dozens of bronze toes from life from contemporary cultural icons. These comprise the central installation in the gallery, while the artist also places glass versions in sly locations around campus. In Piercing the Barrier, Petry inserts verdigris patinated bronze arrows into trees in Wesley’s quad, evoking the Catholic saint (and latter-day queer icon) Saint Sebastian as well as the erotic tools of Cupid.
Apollo’s Mirror—patinated and polished to look like ancient Greek originals—sits in Wesley’s Oxnam Chapel. As part of the Luce Center’s exciting new collaboration with VOMA, the world’s first virtual online museum, Petry has also created a digital collectible of Apollo’s Mirror, available for patrons to purchase to support future collaborations.
The exhibition is curated by Aaron Rosen, PhD, director of the Luce Center for the Arts & Religion and author of Art & Religion in the 21st Century. In League with Devils is accompanied by an eponymous hardback book with essays by Petry, Rosen, Daniell Cornell, and Rick Herron, with an introduction by British comedy legend Stephen Fry.
In League with Devils Michael Petry Published by: MOCA London and The Dadian Gallery
Hardback publication date July 1, 2023 ISBN: 978-1-912800-09-4
In League with Devils by Michael Petry May 5th, 2023 Mon, Aug 21st, 2023, Henry Luce III Center for the Arts & Religion
About the artist
Michael Petry (b. Texas, 1960) has lived in London since 1981. He studied at Rice University (BA), London Guildhall University (MA), and has a Doctor in Arts from Middlesex University. Petry is an artist, author and director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) London. Petry is a Fellow of the Royal British Society of Sculptors (FRBS), served as the first Artist in Residence at Sir John Soane’s Museum (2010/11) and was included in Frontiers Reimagined (2015) at the Venice Biennale. Petry’s many books include: The Art of Not Making: The New Artist Artisan Relationship (2011, pbk 2012); Nature Morte: Contemporary Artists Reinvigorate the Still-Life Tradition (2013); and The WORD is Art (2018, pbk 2021). Petry’s book Hidden Histories: 20th Century Male Same Sex Lovers in the Visual Arts (2004) was the first comprehensive survey of its kind, accompanying an eponymous exhibition he curated at The New Art Gallery Walsall. The Trouble with Michael, a monograph of his practice, was published by Art Media Press (2001). His two-volume book Golden Rain (2008) accompanied his installation for the On the Edge exhibition for Stavanger 2008, European Capital of Culture. Recent solo shows include A Twist in Time, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (2016) and In the Realm of the Gods, Holburne Museum, Bath (2017-18).