press release

The Phantom of Liberty: Contemporary Works in the RISD Museum Collection On view through December 30, 2018

This is the largest presentation to date of contemporary works from the RISD Museum’s collections of contemporary art, costumes and textiles, decorative arts, and prints, drawings, and photographs. The exhibition’s title is inspired by Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel’s 1974 surrealist film of the same name reflecting the exhibition’s loose structure of thematic groupings that quietly inform one another, as well as the cultural and political climate of the past half-century. The works in The Phantom of Liberty pose trenchant questions about the possibility of liberty and freedom in a moment defined by mass incarceration, technologically sophisticated means of surveillance and information gathering, increasing economic disparities, and intensifying divisions based on race, religious affiliation, and gender or sexual orientation.

Subtle connections between themes in the exhibition are exemplified by the transition from Sage Sohier’s sympathetic image of a same-sex couple and their child to works by Tina Barney, Deana Lawson, Ree Morton, and Jessi Reaves the explore domesticity and interpersonal relationships to assume vivid astro focus’s rainbow chain curtain depicting LGBTQ-rights adversary Pope Benedict XVI. Sculptures by Faig Ahmed, Robert Arneson, and Joyce J. Scott that similarly examine various notions of religion and spirituality. David Levinthal’s unsettling photograph of a Nazi concentration camp constructed from toy models brings reflections on incarceration and torture by James Casebere, Tony Cokes, Elizabeth Duffy, and Robert Gober into conversation with works by Shimon Attie, Helen Frankenthaler, and James Montford that consider the ongoing impact of various holocausts throughout history. The meditation on colonialism, race, power, and place in Yinka Shonibare’s Un Ballo in Maschera (Courtiers V) (2004) provides a segue between evocations of economic disparities and realities by David Allyn, Walead Beshty, Alejandro Diaz, Lubaina Himid, and Timorous Beasties, and understandings of displacement and migration by Allora & Calzadilla, Nicole Eisenman, Raul Gonzalez III, and Jordan Seaberry.

The Phantom of Liberty: Contemporary Works in the RISD Museum Collection is organized by Dominic Molon, the RISD Museum’s Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art.