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Phyllis Bramson Retrospective at Rockford Art Museum

Bramsonkey

BY GINNY VAN ALYEA

I took a weekend trip to Rockford recently, to visit family and to see the new Phyllis Bramson Retrospective at the Rockford Art Museum. My family had quite an adventure exploring the area, including the beautiful and serene Anderson Japanese Gardens, and making it out to the museum for this show really was a treat for all.  

Phyllis Bramson is well-known in the Chicago art community (and beyond) as she has been producing her distinctive work for decades. Seeing so many of her large paintings and unique constructions together in the elegant RAM space was a rare experience, and an enlightening one. The museum's main exhibition space, devoted to Bramson's work for Phyllis Bramson: In Praise of Folly – A Retrospective, 1985–2015, was larger than I expected, and the dark gray walls showed Bramson's paintings well, highlighting her bold use of color and the varied use of found materials. 

The works in the show are from the second half of Bramson's career and they demonstrate her signature use of imagery - female images, Asian references and environments, and plenty of eroticisim and surreal scenes. The viewer takes a different trip with each work of art, following Bramson's use of collage, saturated colors, fantastic landscapes and juxtaposed childhood and fairytale references.  

Bramson's sculptures, or scroll drawings, incorporate ceramic figures and teapots with more found materials and often Asian emboridery, as well as delicate paper materials. The images applied to the scrolls that bellow from below the teapots and characters lead viewers into another immersive experience. I wanted to know more about what each piece meant and what stories were told from one work to the next. My two year old daughter desperately wanted to touch each piece and have a tea party... For both of us Bramson's work is a complete experience that asks more questions than can be answered.

In the lower level of the museum, many works from the permanent collection were on view, but a highlight was a collection of prints by Warrington Colescott. The artist's History of Printmaking series tells a tounge-in-cheek story about the art world through Colescott's active figures, suspended in conversation with one another while sending messages off the page to the viewer. Warrington Colescott: Collective Follies closed Oct. 18 but many other works are still on view at the museum this fall. 

Phyllis Bramson: In Praise of Folly – A Retrospective, 1985–2015 in on view at the Rockford Art Museum through January 31, 2016, The exhibition is organized by Rockford Art Museum, curated by RAM Curator Carrie Johnson. This exhibition and its related educational programming are sponsored by BMO Private Bank, and partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and by the Armer Ahlstrand Charitable Foundation. All education programs are sponsored in part by Women’s Art Board

Key image at top of page: Phyllis Bramson, Shipwrecked, 1987, 72" × 96" oil on canvas