Racine Art Museum
Press Release

Upcoming Racine Art Museum Exhibition Showcases Artists’ Books


By - Oct 6th, 2023 10:01 am

Ruth Lingen, Pooté Press. Comeundone, 1989. Letterpress on handmade paper, line engraving, found paper collage, and metal, edition 40/100. Text and drawings by Henrik Drescher. 6 x 6 x 1 inches. Racine Art Museum, Gift of Paul Quick and Wisconsin Bell in Memory of Christopher Geoffrey Blaesing. Photography: Jon Bolton

Racine, WI    October 6, 2023

An upcoming exhibition at the Racine Art Museum (RAM) puts a unique aspect of the museum’s permanent collection on display. Opening on October 11, 2023, Variations on a Theme: Artist’s Books at RAM features some of the 550 artists’ books in the museum’s holdings—a collection that may be one of the largest of its kind in a Midwestern art museum.

Variations on a Theme is presented during RAM’s Twentieth Anniversary and acknowledges a specialty focus of the institution. By their nature, artists’ books bridge the focal point of the museum’s collection: craft and graphics. Books, while printed in one form or another and editioned, are also three-dimensional objects that show evidence of the artists’ hand—effectively closing the gap between prints and three-dimensional craft. In addition, many traditional craft techniques like papermaking and binding are used to create these pieces, relating these graphic works to bookmaking traditions.

RAM Curator of Exhibitions Lena Vigna points out that books are successful as art-making forms because of how familiar they are to individuals. “Similar to adornments, garments, or functional silverware, for example, books in and of themselves are things most people have had experiences with. In fact, that shared understanding of how a book should/could function is sometimes why artists are drawn to making them. When they experiment with how a book looks or opens—or if it even resembles a ‘book’ at all—they have the potential to immediately make an impact as they challenge expectations.”

Artists’ books—a category of making in its own right—can encompass aspects of printmaking, papermaking, illustration, design, and more. An artist can directly produce the book or work with a team that implements an idea—or a combination of both. Artists’ books as a whole consider the idea of the book, as well as its physical format, as a starting point for aesthetic and conceptual investigations. Designs can vary widely and include pieces that question the framework, use, or definition of a book; that include multiple components; or that are not functional in any traditional sense of the word.

Along with “being a specialty focus at RAM and worth drawing attention to,” Vigna points out that this exhibition also highlights collecting interests in other ways. “Several of the artists involved in this exhibition are artists of color and/or women. This shows that even in this not-as-well-known subgroup of contemporary artistic practice, we can see a range of voices and approaches.”

Variations on a Theme will be on display at the museum in downtown Racine through January 13, 2024.

Exhibitions at Racine Art Museum are made possible byPlatinum SponsorsThe Estate of Karen Johnson Boyd, David Charak, Judith and David Flegel Fund, Ron and Judith Isaacs, Nicholas and Nancy Kurten, Racine Community Foundation, Windgate Foundation; Diamond SponsorsCity of Racine’s Grow Racine Grant, Osborne and Scekic Family Foundation, Ruffo Family Foundation, Ruth Arts Foundation; Gold Sponsors—Anonymous, Tom and Irene Creecy, Richard and Patricia Ehlert, Trio Foundation of St. Louis, W.T. Walker Group, Inc., Wisconsin Arts Board; Silver Sponsors—Anonymous, Baird, Beta Diagnostic Labs, A.C. Buhler Family, Lucy G. Feller, Ben and Dawn Flegel, Jim Harris, Sharon and Tom Harty, Lise Iwon, Johnson Financial Group, Dorothy MacVicar, Jan Serr and John Shannon, Visit Racine County; Bronze SponsorsEllen and Joseph Albrecht, Andis Foundation, Susan Boland, Virginia Buhler, Dave’s Wine Garage, Educators Credit Union, Express Employment Professionals, Bill and Debbie Keland, Susan Manalli, Jean and Alex Mandli, Jr., The Prairie School, Cathy Stanghellini, Twin Disc, Inc.

NOTE: This press release was submitted to Urban Milwaukee and was not written by an Urban Milwaukee writer. It has not been verified for its accuracy or completeness.

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