Akron Art Museum Launches a Pair of ‘80s Inspired Exhibitions, Totally Rad: Bold Color in the 1980s and Totally Radical: Art and Politics in the 1980s

Akron – The Akron Art Museum will launch a pair of exhibitions devoted to the 1980s in its Judith Bear Isroff and Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell galleries on February 18, 2021. Through works drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection, each show highlights a particular aspect of the decade. Totally Rad offers a dazzling dive into colorful vibrancy. The exhibition focuses on artists who found inventiveness, freedom, and fun by testing out every extreme possibility that color has to offer. The works in Totally Radical span the decade’s political 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.

Jeff Katzin, exhibition curator, said, “I think that 2021 is a great time to reconsider American art from the 1980s. As Totally Radical makes clear, many of the political issues that artists had on their minds in the ‘80s are the same ones that we’re facing today. And the decade’s vivid energy can help remind audiences that art is something to be enjoyed. Art doesn’t have to be intellectual, intimidating, and exclusive. In Totally Rad, it’s colorful and exciting, loud and unruly, and made for everyone.”

Many of the works in Totally Rad are especially rich in color, texture, and meaning. Hollis Sigler used bright colors to make her stories seem more open and personal as she shared her perspective as a feminist and openly lesbian artist. Nam June Paik wove intercultural references and memories of his family into his colorful engagement with technology. Jack Goldstein and Nancy Graves each used their works as a means to consider how art and science share common ground via color and detailed imagery.

In the ‘80s, artists took political positions more than ever before, and with new intensity and directness. Every artist in Totally Radical engaged with photographic technologies, each in a different way to get their particular message across. Robert Glenn Ketchum used his pictures in the fight to preserve Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The Guerrilla Girls highlighted inequalities and statistical imbalances related to gender through their insurgent poster campaign. Dawoud Bey used his photography in promoting representation of Black artists and images of Black people in museums. The issues brought to light by these perceptive artists remain relevant today.

Totally Rad: Bold Color in the 1980s and Totally Radical: Art and Politics in the 1980s both open on February 18, 2021, as the Museum reopens following its closure in November due to Covid-19. The shows will be on view in the adjacent Isroff and Bidwell galleries through September 19, 2021. The Museum’s hours of operation are limited and as follows: Thursday: 11 am–8 pm, Friday: 11 am–5 pm, Saturday: 11 am–5 pm. Beginning March 12, on the second Friday of each month, the hours are 11 am–8 pm. Admission is free. Timed tickets are recommended and can be reserved online in advance, but walk-ups are welcome. Upon entry, visitors will notice signage designed to keep them informed about AAM’s health and safety protocols and processes.

Totally Rad and Totally Radical are 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.