Reckoner, Mass MoCA
Watch footage here.
George Bolster’s work begins with religion, or, more precisely, the culture surrounding religion. In his work, Bolster examines just how religion and culture inform one another, creating new hybrids. Through meticulous drawings on plywood panels, Bolster recalls Renaissance religious iconography, including luminous portraits of Christ, Saint Peter and the Virgin Mary. However, Bolster blends religious with contemporary ecstasies, depicting Jesus as a tattooed rock star upon the cross, or infusing rap music lyrics into his gothic-inspired sculpture.
For These Days, Bolster created a new installation called Reckoner. Viewers of Bolster’s work first enter a typical white cube gallery environment, only to step through a threshold and see the museum transformed into a chapel for the 21st century. Once inside, the environment is all encompassing, including walls covered with antique mirrors and iron filings, a painted ceiling, sculpture and sound. The iron filings slowly rust along the base and along the sides of the already obscured mirrors, hinting at reflection. The centerpiece of Reckoner is an elaborately drawn ceiling panel depicting the Reckoning or return of Christ at the end of the world and the casting of good and evil. Figures on the ceiling include martyred saints such as Joan of Arc who was burned at the stake, Matthias who was stoned to death, and Bartholomew who was flayed alive. Suspended from the Apostles is a sculpture of a Narwhal, which serves as an allegory for Christ. The stigmata of Christ connect to the wounds of the crucified apostles through flowing red ribbons, symbolizing the sacrifice and blood of the apocalypse.
Accompanying the painted and sculptural elements is a soundtrack of the Radiohead song Reckoner, an atmospheric piece of music that states: “Reckoner/Take me with you/Dedicated to all you/ All human beings. ” One can imagine that this is the pleading at the end of days, the hope for salvation. It is at this point that viewers may notice one last component of Bolster’s work, the element that reaches beyond the walls of the gallery and touches them. Small drops of water descend from the ceiling as each saint weeps in the face of cataclysmic loss. Bolster’s work laments the loss of belief while demonstrating a fascination with faith in a time when both of these things seem to be tenuous.