Christina Ramberg (1946–1995) was an American painter associated with the Chicago Imagists, a group of representational artists—such as Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Roger Brown, and Ed Paschke—who attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 1960s. "Taking cues from Surrealism, Pop, and West Coast underground comic illustration, Imagism at its heyday was enchanted with the abject status of sex in post-war America, particularly as writ on the female form." Ramberg was born in Kentucky in 1946 and died in Chicago in 1995 at the age of 49.
Ramberg is best known for her depictions of partial female bodies (heads, torsos, hands) forced into submission by undergarments and imagined in odd, erotic predicaments. The motif of the female torso is most common; it is corseted, girdled, and otherwise constricted and veiled by the bondage-like accoutrements of typical 1950s female garments. Ramberg relates a memory of watching her mother dress for a party in an interview: "She would wear these—I guess that they are called 'Merry Widow[s]'—and I can remember being stunned by how it transformed her body, how it pushed up her breasts and slenderized down her waist. I think that the paintings have a lot to do with this, with watching and realizing that a lot of these undergarments totally transform a woman's body. … I thought it was fascinating … in some ways, I thought it was awful." The motif of the "hairdo" is likewise common in Ramberg's oeuvre, the hairstyle also being indicative of a type of midcentury female "conditioning" or conformity. Critic Katheryn Rosenfeld, in a 2000 New Art Examiner review states: "it's... hard not to read in the work a psychosexual inventory of the limitations of white middle-class womanhood at mid-century." Indeed, Ramberg has been characterized as being the Chicago Imagist equivalent of Lee Krasner to the Jackson Pollock male artists of the movement (such ad Ed Paschke and Jim Nutt) who frequently receive the lion's share of the art movement's attention (Ramberg was also married to Philip Hanson, a lesser-known member).
In keeping with their subject matter, Christina Ramberg's paintings are highly composed and finished to the point that they themselves are referred to as fetishistic. Worked on masonite in acrylic, they are precisely painted and are characterized by their low tone and mute palette. In a 2012 Art in America review by Nancy Princenthal, she describes the draftsmanship in Ramberg's 1970 Corset/Urn series this way: "inky black with spiky pink highlights, they are prim and sexily sinister... deft, dark and reticent." In the 1970s, Ramberg's work evolved from its strict focus on the female form to less sexualized, even non-human forms such as urn forms, chair backs, and geometries "eliding the boundaries between figuration and abstraction, human and object." Still, her signature style remained: crisp, black outlines, muted colors, cropped forms, attention to pattern and detail.
Ramberg was not exhibited extensively during her lifetime and is gaining notoriety in the contemporary art world with gallery representation at Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, IL and solo shows in 2011 at David Nolan Gallery, NYC and in 2014 at The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA.
- Rosenfeld, Katheryn. "Christina Ramberg: Gallery 400". New Art Examiner. October 1, 2000: 53–54.
- Nolan, David. "Christina Ramberg". Art in America (April, 2012): 119–120.
- "Christina Ramberg". The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
- Gronlund, Melissa. "Christina Ramberg". ARTnews. 100 (11): 143.
- "Christina Ramberg". Artforum. 50 (4): 52.
- "Christina Ramberg". Retrieved 20 April 2014.
- Corbett, John. Christina Ramberg: Corset Urns & Other Inventions, 1968-1980. Corbett vs. Dempsey. ISBN 0983725837.
- Porter, Jenelle (2013). Christina Ramberg Catalogue. ICA Boston.