One of Berlin’s most relevant spaces for contemporary art shines a light on the legacy of Chicago Imagist Christina Ramberg (1946 – 1995) with a display of nine drawings and 13 paintings by her alongside the work of 14 multi-generational artists who expand on her ever-relevant themes. Ramberg’s works here are true to a career-long focus on the female body and its sexualisation to the point of dehumanisation. The paintings of female torsos are in her signature muted palette of beige, brown and black highlighted with occasional blues and reds, picked out in crisp detail in acrylic on masonite board. The two earliest from 1971, “Probed Cinch” and “Black Widow”, are stylised in competition with her Pop Art contemporaries whereas later paintings become much more abstracted, requiring the viewer to piece back together the bodies she has dissected and reassembled into sharply rendered folds of pattern and texture reminiscent of fabric and hair. The drawings appear to be preparatory sketches for paintings, annotated with directions for later development, some casually drafted on the back of typed paper.
The physical restriction found in Ramberg’s works are mirrored in Swedish artist Ghislaine Leung’s 2019 “Gates”, numerous baby gates installed throughout the show; Richard Rezac’s pastel-hued formation of low level barriers “Lancaster”; and American contemporary of Ramberg Diane Simpson’s sculptures “Box Pleats” and “Vest” from 1989 and 2008. In line with Ramberg’s corsets, a self-imposed violence against the female body is found in Kathleen White’s four-screen video installation “The Spark Between L and D”, a harrowing eleven minutes of the artist dressed in what looks like a nurse’s uniform, sweetly singing as she binds her legs to a chair and manically covers herself in bandages after beating herself in the head until she bled. Other works such as Leung’s “Shrooms”, mushroom-shaped glowing night lights sprouting throughout the gallery, and Frieda Toranzo Jaeger’s reimagining of a car interior in her painted installation piece “… And yet we are becoming” push a little further from the boundaries of Ramberg’s work, but stand up as meritorious in their own right. Unravelling the relationships between the various exhibits isn’t always easy, but this show doesn’t set a foot wrong, and gives Ramberg a much deserved mini-retrospective.
The Making of Husbands: Christina Ramberg in Dialogue | KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Mitte. Through Jan 5.