Sam Gilliam
Bardstown, 1976
Color collograph on handmade paper, edition 20/25
22 x 22 inches
Racine Art Museum, Gift of Karen Henrietta Keland
Photography: Jon Bolton

RAM Showcase: Abstraction

February 9 – June 11, 2022
at Racine Art Museum

Abstract art—a term that can be applied to work that ranges from non-representational to that with imagery more closely aligned to perceived reality—is considered a product of a modern, so-called Western world. As technological and industrial advances began to greatly impact everyday life, artists saw abstraction as a way to address intellectual, philosophical, and sometimes even spiritual, concepts.

In the United States, abstract art strongly gained hold as a visual language in the wake of World War II. Contemporary artists who adopt abstraction as part of their practice often use it to explore intangible ideas and emotions, the nature of materials, and/or formal art elements such as pattern, color, shape, and line.

The RAM Showcase series of exhibitions highlight conversations around the work of artists of color. Some of the artists featured in Abstraction, Sam Gilliam in particular, have historically come under fire for preferring abstraction and not addressing contemporary social, political, or cultural issues directly in their work. Gilliam did not want to be pressured by anyone to make a certain kind of work. He felt abstraction could be more powerful than political subject matter. When asked if he, “considered his art black art,” Gilliam answered, “Being black is a very important point of tension and self-discovery. To have a sense of self-acceptance, we blacks have to throw off this dichotomy that has been forced on us by the white experience…I think there is a need to live universally.

About RAM Showcase Exhibitions

RAM Showcase exhibitions highlight the work of contemporary artists of color.

In this moment in time, it is critical that RAM spotlights voices that have been historically underrepresented, such as women and artists of color. Artists of color are identified in this context as non-white and non-European. This simplification, which is arguably a flawed starting point, does not account for the nuances and variations of society. It is a beginning—a way to direct those who want to educate themselves about what is possible when new perspectives are encountered.

While the work of artists of color has been and will continue to be shown in a variety of contexts at both campuses, the Showcase series highlights conversations around equity, inclusion, and social justice. This means underscoring the presence of the work of artists of color, primarily from the collection as well as, at times, featuring artists addressing critical social and cultural issues across a broad spectrum.

Further, as an educational institution rooted in the humanities and using art as a catalyst, the museum wants to encourage inquiry and exploration about the world in which we live. RAM hopes spotlighting artists of color spurs further engagement with these artists and their ideas.

RAM is committed to supporting diverse voices—whether that diversity reflects race, gender, sexuality, age, ability, social standing, or world perspective.

More About the Exhibition

Exhibition Notes (PDF)

Press Room

Artists in the Exhibition

Candida Alvarez, Trenton Baylor, Laritza Garcia, Sam Gilliam, Jim Harrison, Richard Hunt, Ed Kee, Eva Kwong, John L. Moore, Toshiko Takaezu, Joan Takayama-Ogawa, Evelyn Terry, Acquetta Williams, and Zhou Brothers

RAM Showcase: Abstraction

February 9 – June 11, 2022
at Racine Art Museum
Sam Gilliam
Bardstown, 1976
Color collograph on handmade paper, edition 20/25
22 x 22 inches
Racine Art Museum, Gift of Karen Henrietta Keland
Photography: Jon Bolton

Abstract art—a term that can be applied to work that ranges from non-representational to that with imagery more closely aligned to perceived reality—is considered a product of a modern, so-called Western world. As technological and industrial advances began to greatly impact everyday life, artists saw abstraction as a way to address intellectual, philosophical, and sometimes even spiritual, concepts.

In the United States, abstract art strongly gained hold as a visual language in the wake of World War II. Contemporary artists who adopt abstraction as part of their practice often use it to explore intangible ideas and emotions, the nature of materials, and/or formal art elements such as pattern, color, shape, and line.

The RAM Showcase series of exhibitions highlight conversations around the work of artists of color. Some of the artists featured in Abstraction, Sam Gilliam in particular, have historically come under fire for preferring abstraction and not addressing contemporary social, political, or cultural issues directly in their work. Gilliam did not want to be pressured by anyone to make a certain kind of work. He felt abstraction could be more powerful than political subject matter. When asked if he, “considered his art black art,” Gilliam answered, “Being black is a very important point of tension and self-discovery. To have a sense of self-acceptance, we blacks have to throw off this dichotomy that has been forced on us by the white experience…I think there is a need to live universally.

About RAM Showcase Exhibitions

RAM Showcase exhibitions highlight the work of contemporary artists of color.

In this moment in time, it is critical that RAM spotlights voices that have been historically underrepresented, such as women and artists of color. Artists of color are identified in this context as non-white and non-European. This simplification, which is arguably a flawed starting point, does not account for the nuances and variations of society. It is a beginning—a way to direct those who want to educate themselves about what is possible when new perspectives are encountered.

While the work of artists of color has been and will continue to be shown in a variety of contexts at both campuses, the Showcase series highlights conversations around equity, inclusion, and social justice. This means underscoring the presence of the work of artists of color, primarily from the collection as well as, at times, featuring artists addressing critical social and cultural issues across a broad spectrum.

Further, as an educational institution rooted in the humanities and using art as a catalyst, the museum wants to encourage inquiry and exploration about the world in which we live. RAM hopes spotlighting artists of color spurs further engagement with these artists and their ideas.

RAM is committed to supporting diverse voices—whether that diversity reflects race, gender, sexuality, age, ability, social standing, or world perspective.

More About the Exhibition

Exhibition Notes (PDF)

Press Room

Artists in the Exhibition

Candida Alvarez, Trenton Baylor, Laritza Garcia, Sam Gilliam, Jim Harrison, Richard Hunt, Ed Kee, Eva Kwong, John L. Moore, Toshiko Takaezu, Joan Takayama-Ogawa, Evelyn Terry, Acquetta Williams, and Zhou Brothers

Gallery of Work

Exhibitions at RAM are made possible by:

Platinum Sponsors

Judith and David Flegel Fund
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Ron and Judith Isaacs
Nicholas and Nancy Kurten
Windgate Foundation

Diamond Sponsors

Osborne and Scekic Family Foundation
Ruffo Family Foundation

Gold Sponsors
Anonymous
David Charak
Silver Sponsors
Art Bridges
A.C. Buhler Family
Andis Foundation
Baird
Lucy G. Feller
Ben and Dawn Flegel
Annette Hirsch Family
J. Jeffers & Co.
Dorothy MacVicar
RDK Foundation

Jan Serr and John Shannon
Bronze Sponsors

Anonymous
Susan Boland
Virginia Buhler
Butcher & Barrel/Amos Los Tacos
Educators Credit Union
Express Employment Professionals
Get Behind the Arts Studio Tour
William A. Guenther
Tom and Sharon Harty
Tony and Andrea Hauser
David and Judy Hecker
Bradley Lynch
Carlotta Miller
Larry and Barbara Newman
The Norbell Foundation
The Prairie School
Georgiana Treivush
Twin Disc, Inc.
Deb and Will Walker

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