Christian Worthington regards history as an endlessly unfurling source of information, prompting the evolution of his art. This development is clear in Zeitgeist vs Great Man the third exhibition in the Painting is History series. Worthington’s latest oil, clay and steel pieces underscore his study of history’s influential artists. By identifying great artists as authority in his work, Worthington is able to elevate his art in a contemporary landscape saturated with self-expressiveness. He understands that zeitgeist – current world culture and his work are inextricable. It is because of this consideration that Worthington seeks to produce historically informed art in the midst of our cultural amnesia.
“History informs us,” says Worthington. “We can accept it, reject it, or sample it, but as an artist I am compelled to respond to it. We need to understand that there is a historical fabric that runs through everything that we create, it is connected to everything that is and everything that will be.” In the act of creating, with these ideas in mind, Worthington offers historical relief and the possibility of historical transcendence for his art.
Based on the philosophical ideas of the “Great Man” and “Zeitgeist”, Worthington attempts to understand the forces of revolutionary change in civilization. The 19th century cultivated the Great Man theory, whereby it was argued that highly influential people determine history, exclusively. The mythology behind some of the world's most famous leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Mahatma Gandhi, and Alexander the Great helped contributed to the notion that great leaders are born and not made.
“Conversely, the Zeitgeist, or ‘the spirit of the age’ theory, represents a shift in the mood or attitude of a time in which culture vigorously adapts to introduce new ideas,” explains Worthington. “This latest collection of works in oil, clay, and steel is a self-conscious examination of my approach to art-making.” By deconstructing the theories of “Zeitgeist” and the “Great Man” Worthington challenges himself to explore how history happens and its potential to motivate new works of art from other, non-patriarchal perspectives.
These two contrasting concepts are examples of how historicism has formed his development as an artist. Worthington’s work seeks not to be an academic response to history, but a visual, emotional expression of how it informs art today.
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