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Travel Tip: Art and Archaeology in United States
Idol Anxiety

Idol Anxiety
CHICAGO  •  Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago  •  Ongoing
Idols are worrisome objects. From ancient times to the present day, theological traditions have reflected on idolatry and questioned the transcendence, significance, and power of objects. Different anxieties have produced different artistic practices. This exhibition navigates a variety of theological and secular perspectives in order to explore the complex relationships between objects of worship, their makers, and their audiences. For example, in ancient Mesopotamia, a cult statue was installed in the temple only after an elaborate ritual in which artisans proclaimed not to have made the idol while presenting their hands to be symbolically chopped off. Finding such ritual denials ineffective, the Bible's second commandmentómake no graven imagesódeemed all object worship idolatrous. Alternatively, some Christian theologians embraced representations of Christ and contended that such images were valid because Christ himself was the word made flesh. By juxtaposing Mesopotamian cult figures with Classical antiquities and Renaissance paintings, Idol Anxiety examines how objects become idols and offers insight into the sometimes uneasy relationship between people and things.

Smart Museum of Art Web Site

Contact: Smart Museum of Art
University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood Ave.
Chicago IL 60637
Tel: (773) 702-0200

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