Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Tag: agnes pelton

The Transcendental Painting Group

Composition #57/Pattern 29 (1938), Robert Gribboek. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Photo: Geistlight Photography, Albuquerque

Depending on who you ask, Helena Blavatsky was either a mystic and a sage who introduced Eastern spirituality to Western culture, with the stated aim of establishing ‘a universal brotherhood of humanity’, or she was a plagiarist, a racist and a fraud. If you ask me, she was a bit of both. Kurt Vonnegut called her ‘the Founding Mother of the Occult in America’, which is not entirely hyperbole. When she arrived from her native Russia, in 1873, the United States was already in the thrall of new religious movements such as Spiritualism, but it was Blavatsky’s co-founding of the Theosophical Society with fellow seekers Henry Olcott and William Quan Judge that cemented her influence on Western esotericism on both sides of the Atlantic. 

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The Ocular Bowl

Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles


Agnes Pelton, Star Gazer, 1929

The eye, wrote Jacques Lacan in his essay ‘The Line and the Light’, ‘is a sort of bowl’ which light is wont to overflow. ‘A whole series of organs, mechanisms, defences’arerequired to deal with this excess; the shrinking pupil, in bright conditions, ‘has to protect what takes place at the bottom of the bowl.’ Read the rest of this entry »