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Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013

Racine Art Museum Celebrates 10 Years

Anniversary exhibition chosen by museum patrons

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The Racine Art Museum celebrated its 10th anniversary with an exhibition called “Top 10 at 10: Your RAM Favorites.” Chosen from the permanent collection by the votes of museum visitors, the exhibit ended up highlighting 15 instead of 10 winners because the vote tally was so close. Curators then responded to the voters’ choices by exhibiting several pieces significant to the collection and similar in concept to the award winners. The final exhibit totals more than 40 artworks.

Visitors to RAM chose superb sculpture—on a grand scale visually and emboldened with color—for six out of the top 10 winners. The first four were fashioned from the most ordinary material humans touch on a daily basis, a material easily accessible yet redefined by an artist’s hand and vision: glass.

Common, raw glass created the winning artwork, Carol Cohen’s Little Compton, a sculpture configured of layered, painted glass scripted with a 19th-century poem by Sarah Helen Whitman extolling Providence, R.I. An artwork multifaceted in meaning, transparent with the greens and blues of the East Coast sky and sea, the complex wave-like sculpture mounted on a wood base resonates with reflected light.  

Dale Chihuly’s vibrant-hued Salmon and Rose Persian Set ranked second in the voting. The scallop-edged glass shapes, where the largest resembles a giant oyster shell, fascinate the eye with their sinuous curves of persimmon and sunset colors. Edges lipped in a dark cranberry color outline and accent the organic forms blown by one of the premiere masters in American contemporary glass, recalling Chihuly’s cutting-edge career. 

Besides the glass sculpture, furniture claimed several top positions, incluidng Jere Osgood’s Shell Desk, Tom Rauschke and Kaaren Wilken’s Landscape Table and John Cederquist’s painted wood cabinet, Bluto’s Diner. In these pieces, wood was carved, curved, nailed and painted—meticulously designed into functional and sculptural objects. Curators responded to these winners with Lee Weitzman’s The Borealis Sofa, an elegant, elongated, upholstered seat made from mahogany wood, leather and metal tacking.

Perhaps the “Top 10 at 10” exhibition suggests that being comfortable with art resides in what the community feels most familiar with: glass, furniture, watercolor. RAM’s voters expressed wonder for artworks through which they discovered someone with genius that transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary.

The Racine Art Museum presents the “Top 10 of 10: Your RAM Favorites” exhibition through Feb. 9, 2014. The Museum offers free admission on the first Friday of each month.

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