Though her works are held in major collections, such as at MoMA in New York and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C, the American painter Christina Ramberg (1946-1995) is one of the many great women artists that have not received the full historical recognition or international visibility they deserve. It doesn’t explicitly position its aim as such, yet BALTIC’s upcoming exhibition, The Making of Husbands: Christina Ramberg in Dialogue, will hopefully form an important part of a growing move over the last decade to redress this.
Ramberg was an important member of the Chicago art scene and remains primarily associated with the Chicago Imagists of the 1960s and 70s. The movement staunchly rejected New York art world trends and became known for its irreverent, often visceral energy, colliding art history and folk art with the urban fabric of Chicago, and referencing elements of pop culture such as comic book art, pinball machines and advertising.
At the centre of Ramberg’s elegant, erotically charged paintings and small, obsessive drawings, however, is the human body, often depicted in fragments or as a headless torso bound by corsets, hair, bras or cloth. In her sketchbook, she described her drawings of corsets as ‘Containing, restraining, reforming, hurting, compressing, binding, transforming a lumpy shade into a clean smooth line’ – a description that speaks to the questions of power dynamics, hierarchies, gender construction, desire, fetishism, and increasing societal pressure towards standardisation, that she explored throughout her career.
The Making of Husbands is far from a standard artist retrospective, however, presenting Ramberg’s output in dialogue with works by 13 other artists – her contemporaries and members of younger generations that she influenced – grouped by their shared interest in gender and identity. As such, the exhibition gains an even more timely feel, directly engaging with debates that dominate our present, whilst also providing a valuable opportunity to see Ramberg’s work up close.
The Making of Husbands: Christina Ramberg in Dialogue was initially presented at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin (where it received the 2019 Special Exhibition Award from AICA Germany) and also includes a new commission by painter Frieda Toranzo Jaeger.