Russell T. Gordon (1936–2013) was an artist and educator born in Pennsylvania and spent most of his career working in Canada. James Tanner (b. 1941) is also an artist and educator, born in Florida and retiring as professor emeritus from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Gordon traditionally favored two-dimensional expression, such as through prints and paintings. Tanner is best known as a ceramics artist but has also experimented with other media including, glass, bronze, and paint. While both of their works have been shown at RAM before, this exhibition is an opportunity to share more about the artists—reflecting a few moments of intersection between them.
Gordon and Tanner are both black male artists who were also educators with significant positions in their respective universities. Interestingly, both men received MS and MFA degrees from University of Wisconsin-Madison in the late 1960s—Gordon focusing on painting and drawing while Tanner was spending time in the ceramics, glass, and printmaking studios. While their heritage influenced their work, neither seem to have used social protest or cultural prejudice as their primary subject matter.
Far from encyclopedic, the works here represent a small portion of what these artists have achieved—reflecting how each tried their hand with various materials and how each has used bold patterns and/or colors. RAM is fortunate enough to have multiple works from both artists, including pieces where a large, abstracted face makes up or dominates the composition.
Because this is a long exhibition that includes works on paper, some works will be rotated midway through the show.
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.