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Slightly abstract rendering of  the back of a person’s elaborately braided brown hair. Two tightly made braids weave down the sides of the person’s head to create a braided bun at the base of their skull. Tufts of featherlike hair emerge through the space between the braids and the sides of the head. Slightly abstract rendering of  the back of a person’s elaborately braided brown hair. Two tightly made braids weave down the sides of the person’s head to create a braided bun at the base of their skull. Tufts of featherlike hair emerge through the space between the braids and the sides of the head.

Christina Ramberg: A Retrospective

Apr 20–Aug 11, 2024

Exhibition

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Christina Ramberg (1946–1995) was an influential and beloved member of Chicago’s contemporary art scene.

While best known for her stylized paintings of fragmented female bodies, throughout her brief yet focused career, she vacillated between the depiction of various figural elements—hair, hands, torsos, and garments—while also creating equally rich, abstracted forms that emphasize structure and surface.

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Waiting Lady, 1972


Christina Ramberg. Collection of Anstiss and Ronald Krueck, Chicago. © The estate of Christina Ramberg. Photography by Jamie Stukenberg

This retrospective—the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to Ramberg in almost 30 years—presents approximately 100 works from public and private collections, with several key pieces drawn from the Art Institute’s collection. From intimate early paintings focused on the pattern and form of women’s hairstyles and garments, to mature work featuring cropped female torsos in lingerie that contains and restrains, the exhibition presents her most iconic imagery while grappling with all phases and elements of Ramberg’s continually evolving career.

During the mid- to late 1970s, Ramberg pushed her boundary-blurring paintings into a new mode that straddled figuration and abstraction while still questioning idealized body types and gender presentation. These paintings are joined in the exhibition by the artist’s experimental quilts of the late 1980s, when her pioneering obsession with handicraft, garment construction, and domestic textiles led her to abandon painting and focus fully on quilt making. The show additionally includes her final body of work as she returned once again to painting, making dark geometric abstractions that still reveal traces of her lifelong fascination, the human torso.

The exhibition also recognizes that, in addition to her devotion to drawing, painting, printmaking, and quilting, Ramberg was a note-taker, slide-maker, collector, and diarist. Sketchbooks, 35mm slides, and dolls from Ramberg’s informal archive of ephemera offer a fuller understanding of the artist’s practice and how she digested an enormous breadth of source material to create her edgy yet empathetic body of work, or as she once put it, “[made] from my obsessions and ideas the strongest, most coherent visual statement possible.” 

Christina Ramberg: A Retrospective is curated by Thea Liberty Nichols, associate research curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Mark Pascale, Janet and Craig Duchossois Curator, Prints and Drawings.

The exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and will travel to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, October 12, 2024–January 5, 2025, and Philadelphia Museum of Art, February 8–June 1, 2025.

Catalogue

This lavishly illustrated volume includes essays from both scholars and artists and features never-before-published diaries, sketchbooks, slides, and other ephemera.

Sponsors

Major support for Christina Ramberg: A Retrospective is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art, Douglas M. King in honor of Linda L. Spahn and Gene L. King, and Fred and Susan Novy.

Additional support is provided by Kathy and Chuck Harper, Mark and Judy Bednar, and an anonymous donor.

This exhibition is part of Art Design Chicago, a citywide collaboration initiated by the Terra Foundation for American Art that highlights the city’s artistic heritage and creative communities.

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Members of the Luminary Trust provide annual leadership support for the museum’s operations, including exhibition development, conservation and collection care, and educational programming. The Luminary Trust includes an anonymous donor, Karen Gray-Krehbiel and John Krehbiel, Jr., Kenneth C. Griffin, the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris, Josef and Margot Lakonishok, Ann and Samuel M. Mencoff, Sylvia Neil and Dan Fischel, Cari and Michael J. Sacks, and the Earl and Brenda Shapiro Foundation.

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