Playful/Pensive: Contemporary Artists and Contemporary Issues

Racine Art Museum

Aug. 6, 2024 - Jul. 22, 2022

441 Main Street
Racine, 53403
PHONE 262.638.8300

In a modern context, artists not working on a commission can choose to express whatever they desire in their work. The choice of subject matter, and how exactly it is communicated, is filtered through the artist’s perspective. Concerns impacting the artist, whether internal or external, can direct decisions about what is depicted in their artwork and why.

The artworks included in this exhibition are either playful or thought-provoking, and sometimes both—seeming lighthearted at first but ultimately speaking to deeper, more complex issues. Constructed of materials such as ceramic and glass that can withstand the demanding conditions of RAM’s Windows on Fifth Gallery, these works reflect personal, social, and cultural issues and ideas in sometimes unexpected ways.

The appeal of art is, by most accounts, subjective. What draws one person in may not impact the next. Further, opinions about the value and purpose of art vary widely. If someone believes that art is meant to transcend the everyday or focus primarily on what is or is not beautiful, then the works gathered for this exhibition could fall short of their expectations. These objects are created by artists who, on the whole, use their art as a way to address thoughts and feelings about a wide range of topics including colonialism, history, relationships, childhood, consumption, domesticity, the environment, the self, communication, social expectations, and the possibilities of materials. Someone could still find something beautiful in what is being created but these artists do not specifically make work that addresses beauty as a subject. Ideally, these works would encourage contemplation and, ultimately, dialogue.

Some of these artists and some of these works have been shown in RAM’s galleries before but, they have not been shown together, nor have they been shown in the Windows on Fifth Gallery. This is significant because it underscores how different meanings can be obtained through context, both relative to the other works on display and the gallery space they occupy. Having work on full view of anyone who passes by the museum—and not just those who could come inside—opens up the potential for the object to impact, mystify, bother, or excite a layered and diverse network of people.

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