Language of the Birds: Occult and Art

12 Jan 2016 – 13 Feb 2016

Regular hours

12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00
12:00 – 18:00

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New York University's 80WSE Gallery and Pam Grossman are pleased to announce Language of the Birds: Occult and Art, a survey of esoteric artists from the last 100 years.


Language of the Birds: Occult and Art considers over 60 modern and contemporary artists who have each expressed their own engagement with magical practice. Beginning with Aleister Crowley's tarot paintings and Austin Osman Spare's automatic drawings of the 1920s, the exhibition traces nearly a century of occult art, including Leonora Carrington and Kurt Seligmann's surrealist explorations, Kenneth Anger and Ira Cohen's ritualistic experiments in film and photography, and the mystical probings of contemporary visionaries such as Francesco Clemente, Kiki Smith, Paul Laffoley, BREYER P-ORRIDGE, and Carol Bove. 

The concerns and influences of each of these artists are as eclectic as the styles in which they work. While several of the pieces deal with "high" or ceremonial magic, others draw from so-called "low magic" practices and have deeply chthonic roots. The approaches in technique are varying as well, with some doing years of research and preparation for the act of creation, and others working entirely intuitively. 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. 

The exhibition takes its name from the historical and cross-cultural notion that there is a magic language via which only the initiated can communicate.  Often referred to as the "language of the birds," it is a system rumored to operate in symbols, and to be a vehicle for revealing hidden truths and igniting metamorphic sparks.

The artists in Language of the Birds can be considered magicians, then, when seen through this mythopoeic lens. A visual vocabulary is offered up by them, so that we all might be initiated into their imaginal mystery cults and dialog with the ineffable. They speak to us in secret tongues, cast spells, and employ pictures for the purpose of activating profound change in both themselves and in us.  By going within, then drawing streams of imagery forth through their creations, each of these artists seeks to render the invisible visible, to materialize the immaterial, and to tell us that we, too, can enter numinous realms.

Participating Artists

Kenneth Anger * Anohni (FKA Antony Hegarty) * Laura Battle * Jordan Belson * Alison Blickle * Carol Bove * Jesse Bransford * BREYER P-ORRIDGE * John Brill * Robert Buratti * Elijah Burgher * Cameron * Leonora Carrington * Francesco Clemente * Ira Cohen * Brian Cotnoir * Aleister Crowley * Enrico Donati * El Gato Chimney * Leonor Fini * JFC Fuller * Helen Rebekah Garber * Rik Garrett * Delia Gonzalez * Jonah Groeneboer * Juanita Guccione * Brion Gysin * Frank Haines * Barry William Hale * Valerie Hammond * Ken Henson * Bernard Hoffman * Nino Japaridze * Gerome Kamrowski * Leo Kenney * Paul Laffoley * Adela Leibowitz * Darcilio Lima * Angus MacLise * Ann McCoy * Rithika Merchant * William Mortensen * Rosaleen Norton * Micki Pellerano * Ryan M Pfeiffer & Rebecca Walz * Max Razdow * Ron Regé, Jr. * Kurt Seligmann * Harry Smith * Kiki Smith * Xul Solar * Austin Osman Spare * Charles Stein * Shannon Taggart * Gordon Terry * Scott Treleaven * Panos Tsagaris * Charmion von Wiegand * Robert Wang * Peter Lamborn Wilson * Lionel Ziprin

Special Events Related to the Exhibition

Weds, Jan 13:  Opening Reception  6-8pm

Weds, Jan 27:  Performance of "The Language," a theatrical piece written by playwright Matthew Freeman, commissioned for Language of the Birds  7pm

Fri, Feb 5 - Sun, Feb 7: The Occult Humanities Conference  at NYU Steinhardt - a weekend long symposium of 14 lectures and performances which explore the influence of magical thought upon art, history, and contemporary culture (Please note: conference will be taking place at 34 Stuyvesant St - Full conference details below)

Weds, Feb 10: "Art Workings" Lectures and panel discussion with Professor Susan L. Aberth, Jesse Bransford, and William Breeze  7pm

What to expect? Toggle


Pam Grossman

Exhibiting artistsToggle

Austin Osman Spare

Aleister Crowley

Ron Regé Jr.

El Gato Chimney

Carol Bove

Frank Haines


Xul Solar

Leonora Carrington


Barry William Hale

Charmion von Wiegand

Leonor Fini

Rosaleen Norton

Juanita Guccione

Kiki Smith

Ann McCoy

Angus MacLise

Enrico Donati

Ira Cohen

Gordon Terry

Delia Gonzalez

Darcilio Lima

Shannon Taggart

Robert Wang

Laura Battle

Jonah Groeneboer

Max Razdow

William Mortensen

Micki Pellerano

JFC Fuller

Jesse Bransford

Rik Garrett

Adela Leibowitz

Valerie Hammond

Lionel Ziprin

Elijah Burgher

Leo Kenney

Francesco Clemente

Harry Smith

Panos Tsagaris

Scott Treleaven

Bernard Hoffman

Robert Buratti

Paul Laffoley

Rithika Merchant

Brion Gysin

Alison Blickle

Kenneth Anger

Charles Stein

Ken Henson

Nino Japaridze

John Brill

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

Peter Lamborn Wilson

Kurt Seligmann

Ryan M Pfeiffer & Rebecca Walz

Brian Cotnoir

Gerome Kamrowski

Jordan Belson

Helen Rebekah Garber


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