color Beyond Kandinsky: RE: Open Forum

The year 2011 marks the centennial of the publication of Wassily Kandinsky's classic text, On the Spiritual in Art. Inspired by this anniversary, this project set out to explore the place of the spiritual in contemporary art and to propose a challenge to the current devaluation of the inner life that prevails within the art world in our market-driven era.

Beginning on Wednesday, March 30th, 2011, a ten-day virtual symposium moderated by Taney Roniger and Eric Zechman was held in this forum. The symposium closed on the evening of Friday, April 8th. Below is the full record of the proceedings.

Panelists invited to participate were: Suzanne Anker, Laura Battle, Connie Beckley, Anney Bonney, Deirdre Boyle, Nathaniel Dorsky, Jeff Edwards, James Elkins, Max Gimblett, Tom Huhn, Atta Kim, Roger Lipsey, Enrique Martinez Celaya, Joseph Nechvatal, Daniel Siedell, Charlene Spretnak, David Levi Strauss, Alan Wanzenberg, and Pawel Wojtasik. For participant biographies and other project details, please visit our site:


March 30th–April 1st: Session I: The Spiritual Then and Now

April 2nd–April 3rd: Session II: The Changing Shape of Art

April 4th-5th: Session III: Art and Its Audience

April 6th–April 7th: Session IV: The Artist in Society

April 8th: Conclusions


Friday, April 8, 2011

RE: Open Forum

I can't come up with anything else I'd like to address. Whatever questions are still open seem bound to remain open. They’re constantly evolving, and there’s always another tangent or new side path to explore. That’s one of the things that’s so compelling about the things we’ve considered here. Spirit (however you define it) is endlessly and relentlessly productive, and can’t be pinned down.

Though I teach a class at SVA that draws from various spiritual traditions, my own published writing usually has little to do with spirit, at least in any direct sense. The major exception was a short catalogue essay I prepared for a 2009 exhibition of Tobi Kahn’s works at the Museum of Biblical Art. In that piece, I wrote about the resonance between Kahn’s art and the deeper spiritual currents found in various religious and philosophical traditions (including Daoism, Upanishadic nondualism, and the Biblical exegeses of Jacob Boehme; Plotinus and William Blake also got mentioned in passing). Most of the other art I’ve written about is more grounded in earthly concerns of one type or another, and my writings have reflected that. However, spirituality will probably always be a part of my critical toolkit, ready for use if/when it’s needed.


  1. Jeff, is there a link to your essay on that MoBiA page? I didn't see it. Those are beautiful Tobi Kahns, though.

  2. Hi, Taney. Unfortunately, the essay itself is only available in print, in the exhibition catalogue. I linked to the exhibition page so that people could see what the works looked like.

    My piece focused on a few of Tobi's pieces, and talked about the way in which they embody the same interplay of opposites rooted in a single underlying reality that's seen in the traditions and texts that I mentioned above.