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Its noticable that all the great artistic traditions embody their religious worldviews. From hindu temples, christian churches, greek statues of gods and heroes, egyptian sarchophagi etc.

However the modern/contemporary art seems to lack this entirely. If it refers to it, its mostly in the mode of rejection & rebellion, for example seranos piss-christ. There are some pieces that reflect on a ambiguous transcendentalism, Rothkes large muted canvases come to mind.

Is this a reflection that for the art-making and art-appreciating classes in the western world religion has no ontological weight? That their world-view is then materialistic and focused on the present now rather than pointing to some spiritual realm?

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"great artistic traditions embody their religious worldviews" we don't know this but we do know that in the past art aligned with the dominant religion often gets financial backing, good press and curatorship. Indeed this editorial structure has crumbled in the last couple of centuries. Perhaps there always were profound expressions unaligned with the dominant religion of the place and time that was suppressed out of history. The Buddhas of Bamiyan come to mind. – obelia Jan 8 '13 at 1:18
What does a tradition consist of? At what point does the absence of religious iconography, current or antiquated, become pertinent? For instance, what about the general absence of iconography from the impressionists on to the cubists? – Niel de Beaudrap Jan 8 '13 at 1:48
There's also the possibility that it reflects a shift in the organization of "religion" and its relationship to the culture-at-large. That is, perhaps the current iconography can suggest that we are entering a mode where the dominant manifestation of the sacred is a sort of material and rebellious novo-paganism. – wmjbyatt Jan 8 '13 at 4:49
@obelia: What do you mean? The Buddhas were presumably sculpted because they were aligned with the most pervasive religous expression at the time. That we in the West weren't aware of them does not mean that they weren't unknown to the locals there now. Why the Taliban destroyed them, I do not know. Although Islam is against 'idols', doesn't mean it is neccessary to tear them down. Intention is important. What is surprising to me is how easily what was once a dominant expression falls out of favour and becomes almost invisible. – Mozibur Ullah Jan 19 '13 at 13:13
@Beaudrap: That's a very short period of time. Why stop at the cubists, its still here with us. Picasso was inspired by Poincare of all people towards Cubism. Does one have to define a tradition? As a mathematician, I'm sure you're aware of the traditions in your own field. – Mozibur Ullah Jan 19 '13 at 13:39

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