‘Language of the Birds’ Examines a 100-Year History of Occult Art


Language of the Birds: Occult and Art, on view at New York University’s 80WSE Gallery through February 13, examines the power of an individual’s magical practice, tracing over 100 years in occult art. The show consists of over 60 modern and contemporary artists and is curated by writer Pam Grossman, creator of the blog Phantasmaphile and Associate Editor of Abraxas International Journal of Esoteric Studies.

The exhibition includes the profoundly personal works of artists like Aleister Crowley, and his psychic self-portrait conceived in trance; the paintings of surrealist muses Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, and Juanita Guccione; and mystical explorations from Kiki Smith, Kenneth Anger, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and more.

“The concerns and influences of each of these artists are as eclectic as the styles in which they work,” Grossman writes. “Regardless of method, Language of the Birds suggests that all are part of the same lineage: one that pulls on threads from the esoteric web of alchemy, Hermeticism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, divination and witchcraft.”

Alison Blickle‘New Keys,’ 2015Oil on canvas and glazed ceramics40 x 30 in.Courtesy of Kravets Wehby Gallery, New York

Laura Battle‘Sky Drawing,’ 2009Graphite on paper24 x 44 in. (framed) Courtesy of the artist

Max Razdow‘First Well (Mímisbrunnr),’ 2014Pen, ink, pencil on paper5.5 x 7.5 in.Courtesy of the artist and Freight+Volume

Kurt Seligmann‘Sabbath Phantoms (Mythomania),’ca. 1945Oil on canvas36 3⁄4 x 51 in.Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery

Shannon Taggart‘Medium Sylvia Howarth Enters a Trance,’ 2013 Chromogenic print12 x 18 in.Courtesy of the artist

Shannon Taggart‘Medium Sylvia Howarth Channels Her Spirit Guide Tommy, a Boxer with a Black Eye,’ 2013 Chromogenic print12 x 18 in.Courtesy of the artist

Leonora Carrington‘El Nigromante (The Conjuror),’ ca. 1950 Oil on canvas28.75 x 21.25 in.Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery

Leonor Fini‘Le Carrefour d’hecate,’ 1977-78 Oil on canvas25 5/8 x 39.5 in.Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery

Juanita Guccione‘Three Women and Three Owls,’ ca. 1948 Oil on canvas34 x 28.5 in.Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery

Francesco Clemente‘XI Force (Diane Von Furstenberg), from The Tarots,’ 2008 – 2011 Watercolor and gouache on paper19 x 9.5 in.Courtesy of the artist

Aleister Crowley‘Kwaw (Idealized Self-portrait),’ 1935Ink on paper11 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.Courtesy of the Ordo Templi Orientis, New York, Kenneth Anger Accession

Enrico Donati‘FIST,’ 1946Bronze and glass16 x 9.5 x 11.25 in.Courtesy of Weinstein Gallery

Rithika Merchant‘Lilit Births the Djinn,’ 2015Gouache and ink on paper32 x 44 in.Courtesy of Stephen Romano Gallery