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The occult, mysticism, and contemporary art at CCCB

The exhibit ‘Black Light’ explores esoteric traditions in contemporary art since the ‘50s


15 May 2018 03:37 PM


ACN | Barcelona

A new exhibition called ‘Black Light: Secret Traditions in Art since the 1950s’ is now open at the Barcelona Center for Contemporary Culture (CCCB). Opening on May 16, it runs until October 21.


The collection deals with the influence that various secret traditions and practices, such as the occult, mysticism, spiritualism and the paranormal have had on contemporary art since the 1950s until present day. Around 350 different artists are on display, including Antoni Tàpies, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Goshka Macuga, Rudolf Steiner, Alejandro Jodorowsky and William S. Burroughs.

Through paintings, drawings, audiovisual work, sculptures, installations or engravings, the exhibition rejects a purely formalistic understanding of abstraction and deals with subjects like alchemy, secret societies, theosophy, esoteric elements in major religions, eastern philosophies, magic, and psychedelia.

The artists come primarily from North America, “where secret traditions have historically enjoyed greater acceptance,” specifies the press release for the event. Alongside larger and more established names in the counterculture of the last half a century, young artists also find a place, thereby reflecting “renewed interest in these traditions,” the document states.

The exhibit aims to showcase “the relevance and continuity” of these trends which have historically been “overlooked.” Instead, it presents the idea of art “as a possible means to a higher cognitive level,” “as an instrument of connection with a more profound reality,” or even “as a form of knowledge itself.” Additionally, the presence of esoteric ideas in other areas of popular culture is also explored, including comics, jazz, cinema and alternative rock


  • Various works by Harry Smith at the CCCB exhibit on May 15 2018 (by Guillem Roset)

  • Various works by Harry Smith at the CCCB exhibit on May 15 2018 (by Guillem Roset)