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

Sample of Work in the Exhibition

Click/tap an image for more information

Installation View

Exhibitions at RAM are made possible by:

Platinum Sponsors

The Estate of Karen Johnson Boyd
David Charak
Judith and David Flegel Fund
Ron and Judith Isaacs
Nicholas and Nancy Kurten
Racine Community Foundation logo
Windgate Foundation

Diamond Sponsors

City of Racine’s Grow Racine Grant
Osborne and Scekic Family Foundation
Ruffo Family Foundation
Ruth Arts Foundation

Gold Sponsors

Anonymous
Tom and Irene Creecy
Richard and Patricia Ehlert
Trio Foundation of St. Louis
W.T. Walker Group, Inc.
Wisconsin Arts Board

Silver Sponsors

Anonymous
Baird
Beta Diagnostic Labs
A.C. Buhler Family
Lucy G. Feller
Ben and Dawn Flegel
Jim Harris
Sharon and Tom Harty
Horizon Retail Construction, Inc.
Lise Iwon
J. Jeffers & Co.
Johnson Financial Group
Dorothy MacVicar
Jan Serr and John Shannon

Bronze Sponsors

Ellen and Joseph Albrecht
Andis Foundation
Susan Boland
Virginia Buhler
Dave’s Wine Garage
Educators Credit Union
Express Employment Professionals
Bill and Debbie Keland
Susan Manalli
Jean and Alex Mandli, Jr.
The Prairie School
Cathy Stanghellin
Twin Disc, Inc.

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