Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Contact Info: 

Erika Monroe-Kane, Director of Communications
608.257.0158 x 237 or erika@mmoca.org

Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 22nd Century

Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 22nd Century

MMoCA to Present the Artists’ Premiere Survey Exhibition

February 8, 2015 through May 17, 2015 

MADISON, WI -- The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) presents a major survey of work by Eric and Heather ChanSchatz, New York-based artists who have garnered international recognition for their vibrant, abstract paintings created in conjunction with communities across the world. An in-depth and multifaceted exhibition, Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 22nd Century will be on view in the MMoCA main galleries from February 7 through May 17, 2015, with an opening reception on February 6 from 6–9 pm and artist lecture beginning at 6:30 pm.

22nd Century showcases the artists’ interdisciplinary practice, which is grounded in art history as well contemporary modes of collaboration and collective action. The exhibition features a selection of the artists’ existing paintings on silk, which in MMoCA’s galleries will be extended into site-specific, floor-to-ceiling murals. Additional highlights include a large-scale and interactive sculptural installation; a library with the artists’ single edition books; an audio program exploring Madison’s historical and cultural mythology; and a city-wide participatory artwork titled Madison: A Cooperative Almanac. In keeping with ChanSchatz’s process-oriented approach, 22nd Century presents projects at different stages of progress, providing museum audiences a unique view into, and an opportunity to participate in, the artists’ evolving and multi-layered practice.

Eric and Heather ChanSchatz engage in a rigorous artistic process that is built on a distinct visual language they have developed over the past fifteen years. Employing their pictorial lexicon in combination with a unique approach to public collaboration, they explore the role artistic creation can play in fostering civic awareness and galvanizing community interaction, dialogue, and change. The specific geographic regions and populations they engage are grappling with complex socio-political issues that characterize life, globally, in the twenty-first century. They have worked with such diverse groups as American soldiers in Iraq, coal miners in Pennsylvania, Cairo citizens during the Egyptian Spring, and stateless children in Thailand as a means to understand, respectively, soldiers’ first-hand experiences of war; American labor and energy production; religious and political unrest; and the relationship between poverty and human trafficking. The artworks emerging from these exchanges take the form of drawings, paintings, sculpture, and artist books that feature ChanSchatz’s signature characters.

The conceptual focus of their practice, however, remains tied to the idea that artistic participation can be a catalyst for social change, democratic action, and human understanding. In this sense, ChanSchatz’s work can be seen as a contemporary extension of Joseph Beuys’s notion of social sculpture, which speaks to art’s potential to transform society through everyday human activity and personal connection. Thus, the paintings included in 22nd Century are just one element of the exhibition—they represent the physical manifestation, or abstracted interpretation, of the artists’ interactions with project participants. The artists see their paintings as human exchanges in which each artwork is an event and each artwork is an action. ChanSchatz cultivate these exchanges through grassroots networking. Using specialized questionnaires and one-on-one interviews with project participants, they are able to probe fundamental questions about who we are as people, how we live in this world, and how different ideas and groups intersect in contemporary life.

In response to working with MMoCA and exploring Madison’s layered identity, ChanSchatz have developed Madison: A Cooperative Almanac, a project embodying both the tangible and interpersonal components of the artists’ extended Madison residency. Targeting over 60 local communities and themes, in addition to discrete populations, they invited individuals, organizations, and the public to complete questionnaires, explore ideas, and freely contribute their voices and opinions. The resulting painting is a “social landscape” of Madison, an abstract testament to the role individual expression and collective authorship can have on artistic process.Madison: A Cooperative Almanac, a limited edition book, stands at the center of this locally-sourced project. A bound archive of ChanSchatz’s interactions with residents, it preserves a record of each participant’s visual selections, narrative dialogues, and conceptual contributions—a relational network of information that captures a snapshot of Madison’s collective self-image.

To date, generous funding for Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 22nd Century has been provided by BMO Private Bank; Promega Corporation; Karen and Craig Christianson; Darcy Kind and Marc Vitale; Ellen Rosner and Paul J. Reckwerdt; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.

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Admission to exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is free of charge. MMoCA is supported through memberships and through generous contributions and grants from individuals, corporations, agencies, and foundations. Important support is also generated through auxiliary group programs; special events; rental of the museum’s lobby, lecture hall, and rooftop garden; and sales through the Museum Store. 

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