Special Issue "Conceptual Art and Theology"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Theologies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 May 2022.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Taylor Worley
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Pastoral Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL 60015, USA
Interests: systematic and philosophical theology; theological aesthetics; theology and the arts; modern and contemporary art

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Religions will pursue the question of theology’s relationship to contemporary art specifically focusing on the topic of conceptualism in the visual arts. This issue will thus focus on theological engagement with works of art that can be seen as essentially conceptual in nature. What is meant here by “conceptual” is loosely derived from the artist Sol LeWitt’s famous essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” in which he states that, “In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work.” While short-lived as an exclusive, neo-avant-garde movement, conceptualism exerts a broad and ongoing influence today, especially in the proliferation of new media, emerging forms of cinema, and especially among the expansive experimentations from land art, installation art, performance art, social practice art, and video art. Rather than a discreet, single trajectory of similar or recent artworks, theology should concentrate here on examples of what the art historian Thomas Crow has identified in his recent text No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art, where canonical figures like Mark Rothko, Robert Smithson, or James Turrell demonstrate markedly anti-idolatrous impulses in their defining works. In this light, the Christian tradition’s perennial concerns with idolatry as well as its long-standing celebration of contemplation and the cultivation of a theological imagination emerge as key criteria for engagement with conceptualism. Both might prove surprisingly generative for re-engaging art that resists, in the words of Crow, “both idolatrous figuration and its seeming opposite in the disenchanted materialism” of high modernism’s legacy in contemporary art.

The kind of theological engagement envisioned for this Special Issue represents an attempt at addressing a significant gap in the larger literature of theology and the visual arts. Where there exists a depth of theological reflection on visual art, it rarely if ever touches on more recent trends, especially a development as challenging as conceptual art. Where treatments of the relationship between religion and contemporary art feature conceptualism, there is little depth of reflection on its theological value, especially as it relates to the broader Christian tradition’s theological resources for recognizing and appreciating such developments. The purpose of this issue, then, is to identify the unique intellectual contributions of conceptual art and celebrate the imaginative affinities between theology and conceptualism. Examples of such will help to move theology’s consideration of the arts further beyond crass forms of illustration and instrumentalism and onto a more rigorous assessment of the generative methods of contemporary production like conceptualism. Additionally, this effort will be undertaken in hopes of creating or expanding the categories for further scholarly engagements with current practice in the arts.

Potential authors should identify individual artists or artworks that bear particular significance for their theological questions or concerns. Such engagements might take the form of theological descriptions of conceptualism’s function, theological commentary on a work’s significance or meaning, and/or applications of conceptualism for theological reflection. Authors should also feel free to consider conceptualism from a range of theological methods or assumptions; for instance, theological aesthetics, spiritual or mystical theology, theologies of contemplation, lived theology, and/or practical theology. Co-authored submissions, especially between theologians and artists, are most welcome.

Dr. Taylor Worley
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • theological aesthetics
  • theology and the arts
  • contemporary art
  • conceptualism
  • conceptual art, theology of contemplation

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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