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Totally Radical: Art and Politics in the 1980s

Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery
February 18 – September 19, 2021

From the AIDS crisis to the intensifying feminist movement, ongoing calls for racial justice, struggles between corporate profit and union labor, growing concerns about human impacts on the natural environment, and the tense climax of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the 1980s proved to be a dense and dramatic period in American history. Many artists responded with a new sense of urgency and created works that are directly and unapologetically political

Drawn entirely from the Akron Art Museum’s permanent collection, the works of art in Totally Radical span the decade’s flashpoints. They show artists adopting techniques from advertising, bringing previously unseen images to light, and pushing photography in new directions, all to get their points across. Ultimately, these artists did not merely wish to make themselves and their communities more visible. Instead, they hoped that their work would share vital and even deeply personal concerns with the public. They insisted that their voices should be heard. As art museums and American society as a whole seek broader conversations about justice and equity in the present, we can look back and learn from their example.

Totally Radical is presented alongside Totally Rad: Bold Color in the 1980s.

Totally Radical is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, the John P. Murphy Foundation, Katie and Mark Smucker, and the Kenneth L. Calhoun Charitable Trust, KeyBank, Trustee.

Knight Foundation Logo Ohio Arts Council

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Soviet/American Array I Robert Rauschenberg (Port Arthur, Texas, 1925 - 2008, Captiva Island, Florida) 1988-1989 Photogravure, chine colle 88 1/2 in. x 52 5/8 in. (224.79 cm x 133.67 cm) Knight Purchase Fund for Photographic Media 1993.5

March 11, 2021, 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Coffee with the Collection: Totally Rad/Totally Radical

Bring your morning coffee and hear about the curatorial inspirations and behind-the-scenes work that went into the museum’s latest pair of exhibitions. Along the way, you’ll learn about the rad and radical art from the 1980s that can be found in the museum’s collection.

Coffee with the Collection is made possible with support from the Henry V. and Frances W. Christenson Foundation.

Soviet/American Array I, Robert Rauschenberg, (Port Arthur, Texas, 1925 – 2008, Captiva Island, Florida) , 1988-1989, Photogravure, chine colle, 88 1/2 in. x 52 5/8 in. (224.79 cm x 133.67 cm), Knight Purchase Fund for Photographic Media, 1993.5