For Immediate Release

UICA’S Juana Williams Guest-Curates Grand Rapids Art Museum Exhibition

Relevant features an array of abstract works from GRAM’s Collection

GRAND RAPIDS, MI, September 25, 2019 — The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) announced today its new exhibition, Relevant: Abstraction from GRAM’s Collection, curated by Exhibitions Curator at UICA, Juana Williams. Relevant will be on view in GRAM’s Level 3 permanent collection galleries through January 5, 2020. 

GRAM periodically invites guest curators to work with the Museum’s collection to bring new ideas and perspectives to its members and visitors. 

We’re excited to partner with UICA’s Juana Williams to present Relevant at the Grand Rapids Art Museum,” commented GRAM Chief Curator Ron Platt. She brings a fresh perspective to curating the Museum’s collection, and the exhibition offers our visitors the opportunity to experience the artwork through a new lens.” 

For  Relevant, Williams has assembled eleven abstract paintings and works on paper from GRAM’s permanent collection, most created by artists half-a-century or more after abstraction’s invention in the early 20th century. During the 1950s through the 1970s, when most of the works in the exhibition were created, artists were evaluating whether abstraction could still be a relevant form of expression. Two works by African American artist Mavis Pusey are on view for the first time in Relevant. Pusey’s abstract screenprints are inspired by the energy and chaos of the strikes and demonstrations which occurred in Paris during the summer of 1968, illustrating how artists can use abstraction to reference real-world events. 

As an art curator, I’m always looking for ways to use art to collaborate, start conversations, and build relationships,” shared Juana Williams, Exhibitions Curator at UICA. Having the opportunity to curate Relevant at GRAM and SPECTRA at UICA embodied those interactions, and our partnership encourages the West Michigan community to explore both venues while previewing a sampling of the history of and continued relevance of abstract art.” 

Relevant is on view concurrently with the UICA’s exhibition  SPECTRA, also curated by Williams. While  Relevant focuses exclusively on two-dimensional 20th century abstraction,  SPECTRA features works of contemporary abstract and non-representational art that break from traditional mediums and concepts and provide insight into alternative modes of expression. 

Conceived together, Relevant and SPECTRA  examine abstract art through historical and contemporary lenses. Together, they show how abstraction has remained relevant for over 100 years by both addressing its own history and legacy and by continually adapting and diversifying with the times. 

A native of Detroit, curator Juana Williams earned a Master of Fine Arts at Wayne State University and held positions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and the Detroit Institute of Arts before joining the UICA in 2018. 

About the Grand Rapids Art Museum
Connecting people through art, creativity, and design. Established in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, the art museum is internationally known for its distinguished design and LEED® Gold certified status. Established in 1910 as the Grand Rapids Art Association, GRAM has grown to include more than 5,000 works of art, including American and European 19th and 20th-century painting and sculpture and more than 3,000 works on paper. Embracing the city’s legacy as a leading center of design and manufacturing, GRAM has a growing collection in the area of design and modern craft.

For museum hours and admission fees, visit

About UICA
Located on the busiest intersection in Grand Rapids, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts presents innovative art, movies, and educational programs that represent our world today. Our programs foster belonging by sharing perspectives that grow an equitable, thriving culture and community. 

Visit for more information on SPECTRA and other exhibitions currently on view.