Joe Johnson‘s photographic project Mega Churches is currently on view at Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston SC. The mega church, which can be found throughout the United States, hosts a large congregation of 2,000+ evangelical worshipers and a production of often-televised religious spectacle. It is a highly relevant subject for the contemporary visual artist to explore as the literal Biblical interpretations such mega churches typically preach influence the US socially and politically.
Johnson maintains a formal distance in his photographic series, Mega Churches, through choosing to capture these vast interior spaces in a state of absence and quiet; in doing so, he avoids human representation that could potentially veer into caricature. In Johnson’s words, the ‘mechanics of faith’ are his focus in these photographs. The artist hones in on the rows of seats, acrid neon and fluorescent lighting, corporate decor, theatrical stage sets, large-scale screens and behind-the-scenes computers and wires that define and facilitate the business of worship in the mega church’s arena-like space.
Today’s fundamentalist Christian mega churches appropriate entertainment technology and theatrical production to capture their audiences’ attention – and more sardonically, their pocketbooks. Through Johnson’s visual emphasis upon the creation of artifice, the artist is perhaps commenting on the insincerity and fallacy of the message these mega spaces serve to convey.
Joe Johnson earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and his MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, both in photography. Johnson’s photographic work has been shown throughout the United States in both solo and group exhibitions. Johnson is an assistant professor of photography at the University of Missouri and a member of the Midwest Photographers Project at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago.
Johnson’s Mega Churches series has been well received in the US – earning the artist runner up recognition for the 2008 Aperture Portfolio Prize. The series was previously shown at the Gallery Kayafas in Boston MA from April through May 2009.
Mega Churches remains at Redux Contemporary Art Center through 18 December 2009.