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Christina Ramberg: Drawings

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Tuesday, March 21, 2000–Friday, April 14, 2000
Location:
Gallery 400
400 South Peoria Street, Chicago, IL 60607

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Christina Ramberg: Drawings, organized by Gallery 400 and the College of Architecture and the Arts, was the first retrospective exhibition of the artist ’s work in Chicago, and provided a rare opportunity to view private aspects of the artist’s prolific practice in drawings that informed the paintings for which she is most recognized. All the drawings, sketches, selected writings, and artist’s source materials were generous loans from the Christina Ramberg estate. The significant undertaking of this exhibition utilized the rich holdings of more than 300 sketches and drawings from Ramberg’s estate, which have never before been chronicled, documented, exhibited or researched.

Throughout the process of organizing this exhibition, the largest obstacle was a lack of clear chronology, although the majority of the exhibited works were created in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Since relatively few of the drawings were dated, we were unable to produce a checklist for the exhibition. Instead we arranged the works around the themes the artist used. Her varied source material, also on view, provided us with guidance. Selected paintings accompanied the graphic work, underscoring her major artistic themes and illuminating her sensibility.

While she was alive, Christina Ramberg did not exhibit her drawings. Instead, she used them to investigate the morphological processes informing her paintings. This exhibit provided a fascinating first look at a selection of the over 350 drawings in Ramberg’s estate. Demonstrating the artist’s creative process, the exhibition included 140 drawings on index cards, graph paper and tracing paper as well as several vitrines containing original source material. By bringing to light a compelling new layer of her creative practice, this exhibit forced a reevaluation of Ramberg’s career as well as offered new insight into the history of Chicago post-war art in general.

An artist and an educator, Christina Ramberg was a dynamic presence in the Chicago artistic community from the 1960s to her death in 1995. She was traditionally associated with the Chicago Imagists, and shared their practice of quoting liberally from popular culture. Her fascinating imagery may be understood and appreciated for both its formal strength and its subjective iconography. Her work reveals a wide range of visual influences, including printed advertisements, fashion layouts, medical illustrations, costume history, and quilting. Ramberg was concerned with the implications of mass culture, as well as vernacular representations of femininity and the body. Initially produced during the rise of the feminist movement, Ramberg’s drawings continue to speak to contemporary gender concerns, as well as perceptions of gender identity and objectification of the female body. She is widely regarded as a central figure in the history of contemporary art in Chicago and in the history of feminist art. In light of her significant contributions, the compelling aesthetic and psychological qualities of Ramberg ’s work are particularly relevant for today’s audiences.

Ramberg’s work, however, stands apart from the Imagists’ in its particularly feminist sensibility, evidenced in her use of erotically charged, fetishized female imagery. Ramberg’s depictions of women evade a simplistic, authoritative reading. Her careful formal technique, using quiet colors and precise lines, belies a messy subject full of torture and desire. Fragmented and cropped, bound and gagged, Ramberg’s women describe an imploding force of repressed female desire.

Many of Ramberg’s drawings describe multiple transformations of a single subject. In her review, Amanda Henry notes that the “[w]omen’s bodies are not just associated with domestic objects, they are taken over by them. ” For instance, a woman’s head of hair turns into a head of lettuce, a plastic bag, and pair of pantaloons. By combining disparate elements – underwear with medical supplies, bandages with brassieres – Ramberg made the innocuous threatening and the everyday strange.

Working with wit and skill within the confines of a rigorously formal application of painterly elements, Ramberg illuminated the psychological binds she experienced and observed firsthand. Her process tends toward the voyeuristic: her cropped, fetishized female torsos are wrapped and unwrapped, bandaged and unbandaged, fragmented and fulfilled. Her work addresses the symbolic interpretations of women’s appearances and bodily gestures as codes of representation with ongoing historical, political, and social implications. Understood through the lens of more recent critical insight, the subject matter and manner of representation that Ramberg’s drawings employ may be seen to work in tandem with the theoretical discourses of signification and identification. Reflecting the immediate cultural implications of mass, popular, vernacular, and individual representations of femininity and the body, Christina Ramberg is undoubtedly an artist of continuing relevance.

This exhibition traveled to four other institutions: The Ben Maltz Gallery (Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles), Herron Gallery (Indiana University-Purdue), Madison Art Center (Madison, Wisconsin) and Marsh Art Gallery (University of Richmond, Virginia). It was accompanied by a 128-page catalog, with color and black and white reproductions.

Press Release

Christina Ramberg
Drawings

Gallery 400
Chicago, IL
May 1–June 10, 2000

Opening Reception: May 3, 2000, 4–7 pm
Panel Discussion: May 18, 2000, 5 pm

Catalogue Available: Christina Ramberg Drawings with essays by Molly McQuade, poet and author, and Judith Russi Kirshner, Dean of the College of Architecture and the Arts.

Gallery 400 and the College of Architecture and the Arts have organized the first retrospective exhibition of drawings by Chicago painter Christina Ramberg. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view private aspects of the artist’s prolific practice in drawing that informed the paintings for which she is most recognized. This significant undertaking utilizes the rich holdings of more than 300 sketches and drawings from Ramberg’s estate, which have never before been chronicled, documented, exhibited, or researched. Selected writings and paintings accompany the exhibition of graphic work by the artist which underscore her major artistic themes and illuminate her sensibility.

Artist and educator, Christina Ramberg was a dynamic presence in the Chicago artistic community from the 1960’s to her death in 1995. Ramberg’s fascinating imagery may be understood and appreciated for both its formal strength and its subjective iconography. Her works reveal a wide range of visual influences including printed advertisements, fashion layouts, costume history, and medical illustrations. Ramberg was concerned with the immediate cultural implications of mass, popular, vernacular, and individual representations of femininity and the body. The compelling aesthetic and psychological qualities of her work are particularly relevant for today’s audiences. She is widely regarded as a central figure in the history of contemporary art in Chicago, and in the history of feminist art.

Christina Ramberg Drawing

Christina Ramberg: Drawings

Organized by Judith Russi Kirshner
and essays by Judith Russi Kirshner,
Molly McQuade, and Barbara Rossi
Gallery 400, School of Art and Design,
University of Illinois at Chicago, 2000
128 pp., 10 x 8.5 in., with color and
black and white reproductions

This catalogue can be purchased for $40.00 plus shipping by calling Gallery 400 at 312 996 6114.

PRINT COLLATERAL

Flyer: Christina Ramberg: Drawings

Postcard: Christina Ramberg: Drawings – Opening Reception

Postcard: Christina Ramberg: Drawings – Panel Discussion

EXHIBITION SUPPORT

Christina Ramberg: Drawings is made possible by the College of Architecture and the Arts, the School of Art and Design, and supported in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the Chicago Foundation for Women. This exhibition is also made possible with the support of Ruth Horwich, Alexander Hanson, Philip Hanson, and generous individual donors.

ARTIST BIOGRAPHY

Ramberg Head ShotChristina Ramberg (1946-1995) was a Chicago artist and educator. Ramberg was a dynamic presence in the Chicago artistic community from the 1960s to her death in 1995. She was traditionally associated with the Chicago Imagists, and shared their practice of quoting liberally from popular culture. Her fascinating imagery may be understood and appreciated for both its formal strength and its subjective iconography. Her work reveals a wide range of visual influences, including printed advertisements, fashion layouts, medical illustrations, costume history, and quilting. Ramberg was concerned with the implications of mass culture, as well as vernacular representations of femininity and the body. Initially produced during the rise of the feminist movement, Ramberg’s drawings continue to speak to contemporary gender concerns, as well as perceptions of gender identity and objectification of the female body. She is widely regarded as a central figure in the history of contemporary art in Chicago and in the history of feminist art. In light of her significant contributions, the compelling aesthetic and psychological qualities of Ramberg ’s work are particularly relevant for today’s audiences.

Ramberg’s work has been exhibited and collected widely around the United States and Europe. Solo exhibitions of Ramberg’s work include Corset Urns and Other Inventions, David Nolan Gallery, 2011; Christina Ramberg: Drawings, Gallery 400 and numerous other venues, 2001; and Christina Ramberg: A Retrospective, 1968-1988, The Renaissance Society, 1988. Her work was included in group exhibitions such as Girls and Company: Feminist Works from MMoCA ’s Permanent Collection, The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, WI, 2008; Art in Chicago, 1945-1995, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 1996; Surfaces: Two Decades of Painting in Chicago, Terra Museum of American Art, 1987; Drawings from the Chicago Imagists, The Renaissance Society, 1987; Who Chicago? An Exhibition of Contemporary Imagists, 1980, traveling to Sunderland Arts Center and Camden Arts Centre, London, Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the Ulster Museum, Belfast, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Boston, and the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans. Ramberg’s work is included in the public collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the DePaul University Art Museum, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Illinois State Museum, the Museum Moderner Kunst in Vienna, the Koffler Foundation Collection at the Smithsonian Institute, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Ramberg received an MFA (1973) and a BFA (1968) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was a faculty member of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Hyde Park Art Center.

MEDIA COVERAGE

“Christina Ramberg.” The Art Newspaper, May 2000, Vol. XI, no. 103, p. 1.

Rosenfeld, Kathryn. “Review: Christina Ramberg.” New Art Examiner (Chicago, IL), Oct. 2000, p. 53.

Snodgrass, Susan. “Christina Ramberg: Drawings.” Art in America, Sept. 2000, p. 157-8.

EXHIBITION CHECKLIST

This retrospective exhibition – Christina Ramberg Drawings – provides a rare opportunity to view private aspects of the artist’s prolific practice in drawings that informed the paintings for which she is most recognized.

All the drawings, sketches, selected writings, and artist’s source materials are generous loans from the Christina Ramberg estate.

The significant undertaking of this exhibition utilizes the rich holdings of more than 300 sketches and drawings from Ramberg’s estate, which have never before been chronicled, documented, exhibited or researched.

Throughout the process of organizing this exhibition, the largest obstacle we encountered was a lack of clear chronology, although the majority of this work was done in the 1970s and 198-s. Since relatively few of the drawings are dated ,we are unable to produce a checklist for the exhibition. Instead we have arranged the works around the themes the artist used. Her varied source material, also on view, provided us with guidance.

Selected paintings accompany the graphic work which underscore her major artistic themes and illuminate her sensibility.

Christina Ramberg
– Paintings Checklist

Cabbage Head, 1968
Acrylic on masonite, 9 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.

Corset Urns, 1970
Acrylic on masonite, 11 1/2 x 62 in.

False Bloom, 1971
Acrylic on wood, 16 x 12 in.

O.H.D., 1976
Acrylic on masonite, 17 1/2 x 15 1/8 in.

Sedimentary Disturbance, 1980
Acrylic on masonite, 39 1/4 x 37 in.

Sore Head, 1969
Acrylic, wood, glass, 9 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.

Tall Tickler, 1974
Acrylic on masonite, 34 1/8 x 13 1/4 in.

Untitled #122, 1986
Acrylic on masonite, 19 x 16 in.

Untitled #127, 1986
Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16

Untitled #134, 1986
Acrylic on linen, 25 x 19 in.

Drawings and source materials included in the exhibition and catalogue are undated and untitled.