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Racine Art Museum expanding the definition of what a vessel could be
Tony Marsh, Vessel from the Perforated Vessel Series, 2009. Porcelain, 5 ¾ x 23 inches diameter. Racine Art Museum, Gift of Karen Johnson Boyd. Photo: Jon Bolton, Racine.

RACINE, WI.- In Racine Art Museum’s extensive holdings of contemporary craft, a variety of approaches to the idea of a “vessel” are represented. Open July 16, 2017 – January 21, 2018, Variations on a Theme: Vessels from RAM’s Collection is the second in a series of museum exhibitions surveying the landscape of craft through theory, design, and history. As evidenced by the more than 50 examples on display in this exhibition, there are many ways contemporary artists interpret or investigate what a vessel could or should look like.

Since the mid-twentieth century, many craft artists have purposefully made objects that challenge the idea of function. The works they created could be functional in an expected way, functional but not seeming to be, or wholly sculptural and not meant to function at all. Responding to social and cultural dynamics that were expanding definitions and breaking down boundaries, craft artists were similarly looking at the types of work they created. Often, traditional forms or shapes—such as teapots, furniture, jewelry, and vessels—would be used as reference points for investigating new possibilities for use or content.

The standard definition of a vessel suggests a container for holding something, usually liquid. In this show, there are pieces that could be identified as vases, bowls, bottles, jars, or not as any of these things. Whether clay, glass, or metal, these works are studies in scale, color, function, and design. This is not an exhaustive representation of RAM’s holdings but a summary of various types as well as an exploration of the relationship between theory and form.

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