An Art of Inner Necessity: Expressionist Works from MMoCA's Permanent Collection
July 19, 2008 to July 19, 2009

An Art of Inner Necessity examines the expressionist tradition in modern and contemporary art through paintings, sculpture, and works on paper from the permanent collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. It is the second in a series of exhibitions that focus on the three major styles of twentieth-century modernism in the visual arts: abstraction, expressionism, and realism.

Expressionist works represent their subjects in recognizable form. However, unlike realist approaches, expressionism plays upon the evocative power of exaggerated color, distorted shape, and gestural line. Such transformations proceed from the artist’s personal need, or “inner necessity,” to make tangible his or her feelings–often intense–toward the subject. These alterations of natural appearances, in turn, recreate the artist’s state of mind in the viewer’s own imagination.

With roots in the art of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, expressionism found its first twentieth-century manifestations in the works of the German Expressionists and French Fauves. Expressionist style also characterized aspects of other art movements, including Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. Unlike most modernist styles, expressionism has had a continuous history in the visual arts since its inception, with rich representation in photography, film, and architecture. There have also been important counterparts in the literary and performing arts. Without question, expressionism has played a seminal role in the history of modern and contemporary art.

Exhibitions in the Henry Street Gallery are generously funded through an endowment established by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.