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The Mission of Art


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Alex Grey is best known for his depictions of the human body that "x-ray" the multiple layers of reality and reveal the interplay of anatomical and spiritual forces. His paintings have been featured in venues as diverse as the album art of the Beastie Boys, Newsweek magazine, the Discovery Channel, rave flyers and sheets of blotter acid. Grey's artworks have been exhibited and performed throughout the world and are chronicled in the book Sacred Mirrors: The Visionary Art of Alex Grey. He lives in New York City.


In this Technicolor manifesto calling for a renewed spiritual content in modern art, Grey argues that contemporary artists have lost touch with the search for transcendence that infused the work of such masters as Michelangelo, van Gogh, Pollock and Kahlo. In a freewheeling narrative, Grey compares what he sees as the materialism and moral irresponsibility of most contemporaryart to his own creative endeavors, which draw on meditation, visualization, shamanic drumming, Taoism, yoga and Tibetan Buddhism. The book is bursting with his own mystical paintings and drawings, depicting floating cosmic eyes, the soul leaving the body of a dying person, haloed skulls, metaphysical thought-diagrams, human torsos lit from within by chakras or psychic energy centers. If this sounds reminiscent of the psychedelic 1960s, that may be because, as Grey freely admits, "sacramental" hallucinogens like LSD and mescaline have been a source of inspiration for him since the mid-1970s. He's found equal inspiration, however, in the works of Blake, Kandinsky and the drawings he made of Michelangelo's sculptures and paintings during a 1994 trip to Italy. Grey acknowledges a big debt to transpersonal psychology, the study of manifold dimensions of human consciousness, a science whose leading philosopher, Wilber, contributes the hyperbolic foreword ("Alex Grey might be the most significant artist alive"). As a hodgepodge of art-historical analysis, social commentary and spiritual philosophizing, the book is so idiosyncratic, and sometimes so preachy, that many readers will find it difficult to penetrate. But Grey's insistence that art should be a revelatory and healing force in our culture should resonate with artists in virtually any discipline. (Jan.)

"Alex Grey's mission is nothing less than the transformation of our 'depleted world' through art that supports the evolution of human consciousness. He discusses the lives and work of artists throughout history, and his own journey, as examples of the higher mission of art, and encourages others to break out of the prevailing mood of irony and cynicism and create work with the heart and spirit."-- Yoga Journal

"An inspirational text for artists and for everyone else who has ever had a glimpse of art's power for personal catharsis and spiritual awakening."-- Branches of Light

"Grey's insistence that art should be a revelatory and healing force in our culture should resonate with artists in virtually any discipline."-- Publishers Weekly

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