Art and symbol

Perhaps once thought of as a part of a new move by the Catholic Church, Karl Rahner represented a far more “populist” platform during Vatican II and then promptly died. Well before I was born. But he has influenced my thoughts from afar. His theological concepts, thoughts and general discourse changed how I looked at life, art and everything.

As an undergrad, I did a project that looked at Andy Warhol’s Last Supper Series through the lens of Karl Rahner’s theology of the symbol.

It’s quite a theology. To get basic with it is pretty much a shame, but really, it’s about perspective. It about the difference between a symbol and a sign. A sign points you in a direction, a symbol bears the presence of the symbolized.

So, when Warhol was using Leonardo’s Last Supper as an inspiration he was trying to reconnect the modern audience with an abandoned symbol. Up until Leonardo da Vinci, the Last Supper of biblical myth had typically been pained to look like what a community gathering would resemble in that town, where ever it was created. After Da Vinci’s Last Supper, things got fixed, meaning most people see the Last Supper in terms of how an Italian Renaissance setting would look. Warhol challenged that… and a lot of people got upset, of course, because it’s Warhol. But a different lens, a different perspective. Perhaps Warhol just wanted us to see anew.


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