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Ed Blackburn

Center for Research in Contemporary Art

Ed Blackburn’s bible paintings place us in a quandary because of their seeming straightforwardness. Few modes of discourse are as instantly suspect. Politicians, evangelists, and advertisers have hopelessly compromised their earnestness in public address. Since these works look at first glance like blowups of the simple illustrations in Sunday-school workbooks, it is possible that the artist is somehow serious about all this. This instantly makes the viewer—this viewer, anyway—suspicious.

Blackburn does not tackle major theological mysteries in these paintings. He forgoes the nativity, crucifixion, and resurrection in favor of those stories that are childhood favorites. He gives us David and Goliath, 1987–88, Cain and Abel, 1988, and Joseph and the Pharaoh’s Dream, 1989, rendering them in a bright, coloring-book style. This approach seems calculated to return us to when we first learned

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