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Abstract expressionism, pop art, geometric abstraction and photorealism all have a place at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum's new exhibition, "Made in the UK: Contemporary Art from The Richard Brown Baker Collection." The exhibition, which opened Sept. 23 and runs through Jan. 8, features works by 83 British artists.

Filling two galleries of the museum, the exhibition features a variety of art forms, including paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures — the majority of which are from the post-World War II era.

Some of the pieces are being shown to the public for the first time, said Judith Tannenbaum, one of the collection's curators. About half of the exhibition consists of artwork collected by Richard Brown Baker himself, while the museum purchased the other half using funds Baker donated.

The exhibition has a recurring landscape motif, including John Parks' "Camden Town," which could be mistaken for a photograph from afar. The 1980 painting depicts, in exacting detail and color, the London neighborhood of Camden, reflecting the painter's sense of homesickness.

Vibrant colors radiate throughout the collection's galleries, including Tom Dixon's functional bright orange "Chair" and "Untitled," an organic, copper sulfate construction by Roger Hirons in a bright blue hue.

There is a cross-cultural connection and sense of change in the two galleries. The numerous artists, though they all have a connection to Britain, come from various backgrounds including Nigeria and Japan, and their artwork reflects this diversity.

Tannenbaum called "Made in the UK" a "portrait of the collector" as well as a broad example of contemporary British art.

Baker, a longtime resident of New York, was born in Providence and served as a member of the Museum's Fine Arts Committee from 1966 to 2000, she said.

He lived in Britain during World War II as a Rhodes Scholar and later donated a substantial portion of his collection to RISD, considering the move a "gesture to England and to (his) native city," according to a museum press release.

One of the first pieces in Baker's art collection, a watercolor by 19th century landscape artist J.M.W. Turner, is on display. Tannenbaum described the work as "fluid, open and airy," adding that Baker saw a connection between this piece and the work of abstract expressionist artists, which he later began collecting.

Baker frequented art shows in New York and tended to buy pieces from fledgling contemporary artists, Tannenbaum said.

The museum continues to collect work from living British artists through the Richard Brown Baker Fund for Contemporary British Art — so far accumulating 60 works, according to the press release.

"Made in the UK" presents an eclectic mix that draws its inspiration from Baker's varied interests, with art ranging from metal pieces that look like heating grates to a piece commenting on the role of the British royal family. Its diversity encourages visitors to reflect upon changes in Britain and throughout the world.


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