The Many Hats of Ralph Arnold: Art, Identity and Politics


  • Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago

October 11–December 21, 2018

Ralph Arnold, Who You/Yeah Baby, c. 1968. DePaul Art Museum. Reproduced with permission from The Pauls Foundation.

During the tumultuous 1960s and 70s, the prolific artist Ralph Arnold made photocollages that appropriated and commented upon mass media portrayals of gender, sexuality, race and politics. Arnold’s complex visual arrangements of photography, painting and text were built upon his own multilayered identity as a black, gay veteran and prominent member of Chicago’s art community, hence the title for the exhibition, which is drawn from one of the artist’s more personal pieces. Arnold participated in some of the era’s most provocative exhibitions yet by the mid-1980s he increasingly focused on his teaching and service to the art community. This exhibition brings together Arnold’s most significant contributions to the art of collage, including a recently rediscovered triptych made for the 1968 MCA Chicago exhibition,Violence in Recent American Art. It also includes work by contemporaries and colleagues like Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Paschke, Ray Johnson, and Barbara Jones-Hogu to add further context and enrich our understanding of Arnold’s legacy. 

A companion exhibition, titled Echoes: Identity and Politics in Contemporary Collage, also at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, examines the parallels between Arnold’s work and 21st-century photocollage artists like Wardell Milan, Nathaniel Mary Quinn and, Paul Mpagi Sepuya deepening our understanding of Arnold’s lasting contribution.