Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Contact Info: 

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

Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 22nd Century Nears Opening, MMoCA Galleries Transformed, Public Called to Participate

Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 22nd Century Nears Opening, MMoCA Galleries Transformed, Public Called to Participate

MADISON, WI – With three weeks remaining until the opening of Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 22nd Century, the exhibition is already challenging expectations. The art itself is not static, it is constantly unfolding. The public is not invited to simply view the artwork, but rather to participate in its creation. The opening reception is not for a small insular group, instead all are invited to attend free of charge.

The galleries at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are currently undergoing an incredible transformation that reflects this and accommodates the meticulous process each artwork requires from 12 assistants, five MMoCA staff and the two artists themselves, who have been in residence since July, 2014.

This incomparable exhibition is distinguished by several factors:

  • Seven of the artists’ existing artworks are being realized, for the first time, full-scale, through murals that extend the imagery to the full height of the gallery walls.
  • Individuals connected to three of the subject explored in the exhibition (war, revolution, education) will be involved in ceremonially placing a stainless steel touchstone onto the paintings, thereby linking the work and the local community.
  • Madison residents and museum visitors are being invited to complete the artists’ questionnaires, or “selection sheets”, for the existing artwork as a way to continue the evolution of these works.
  • Visitors are also invited to complete selection sheets that will be used to inform the new artwork, Madison: A Collective Almanac. This is the first time that Eric and Heather ChanSchatz have made an entire city the focus of their work.

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art 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 conversation beginning at 6:30 pm. To include all those who have participated thus far in Madison: A Collective Almanac and to invite others to be involved, this event will be free to all attendees.

“We are excited to help realize the artists’ vision for an interactive exhibition and to present our community with the opportunity to engage directly with the art of these significant contemporary artists,” stated Stephen Fleischman, MMoCA director. “Art can challenge us to reflect on life; it can provoke a transformation. Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 22nd Century has this kind of power."

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, currently being extended by floor-to-ceiling murals.  Additional highlights include ongoing interactive opportunities; a library with the artists’ single edition books; 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.

The support and involvement from several individuals, organizations, and business have been key in the realization of this exhibition.

Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 22nd Century exhibition embodies a collaborative moment in art when community and creativity come together and produce a composition that is reflective of the spirit of Madison,” said Doug Nelson, Regional President for BMO Harris Bank.  “Whenever we can create cultural opportunities that bring us together, we can achieve great things. BMO Harris Bank is committed to enriching our communities by supporting projects like the ChanSchatz exhibition and Madison: A Cooperative Almanac.”

EXHIBITION OVERVIEW

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 will be 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.

Generous funding for Eric and Heather ChanSchatz: 22nd Century has been provided by BMO Private Bank; the National Endowment for the Arts; Promega Corporation; Karen and Craig Christianson; Ellen Rosner and Paul J. Reckwerdt; Steinhauer Charitable Trust; Ben Marcus and Katie Dowling-Marcus; William Henry Chan, MD and Janet E. Wong, DDS; Darcy Kind and Marc Vitale; Hooper Corporation/General Heating & Air Conditioning; J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.; Iva Schatz and Stefani Schatz and Joseph Duggan; Lesa Caldarella-Wong and Wardon Wong; Vycom Plastics and Scranton Products; Jabez Technologies Inc.; CNC Software; 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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