The Phantom of Liberty: Contemporary Works in the RISD Museum Collection
The Phantom of Liberty presents works by more than 40 artists, designers, and collectives in the RISD Museum collection, offering the museum’s broadest exhibition of postwar art and design to date. These works—representing a range of media, including painting, sculpture, decorative arts, prints, drawings, and photographs—reflect various notions of “freedom” as being elusive or even imaginary ideals in contemporary life. Intersecting and overlapping themes include spirituality and religion, family and domestic spaces, and the ways power and authority shape geography and place. The exhibition also demonstrates the dynamic convergences within the visual arts and different design-based practices, revealing how disciplines have become more interdependent in recent years.
RISD Museum is supported by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and with the generous partnership of the Rhode Island School of Design, its Board of Trustees, and Museum Governors.
I see liberty as a ghost that we try to grasp … a misty shape that leaves us with only a wisp of vapor in our hands. –Luis Buñuel, filmmaker
Artists, designers, and design collectives are uniquely positioned to consider the ways in which “freedom” is an elusive or even imaginary ideal in contemporary life. The museum’s broadest presentation of postwar art to date, The Phantom of Liberty presents overlapping concentrations of objects that address themes ranging from spirituality and religion to family and domestic space to the ways power and authority shape and define geography and personal experience.
These works ask numerous questions, including What is liberty, and is it possible in a world defined by constant technological interconnectedness?
Can artistic expressions ever be considered “independent,” when they are so informed by and reliant upon historical precedents?
In what ways are different individuals allowed varying degrees of “freedom,” and why, and by whom?
Wherever possible, the artist’s own commentary has been used for the label text, providing a direct perspective on their intentions and methods. In other instances, alternative perspectives on the theme are presented.
Some viewers may find the deliberately provocative language, imagery, and concepts of some of these works difficult or upsetting.