Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Friday, January 19, 2007
Contact Info: 

Katie Kazan, Director of Public Information                608.257.0158 x 237

Dr. Richard H. Axsom, Consulting Curator             608.423.3530

High resolution images are available at

In Depth: A Closer Look at MMoCA's Permanent Collection

In Depth: A Closer Look at MMoCA's Permanent Collection

MADISON, WI – A new major exhibition exploring seven areas of strength within the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's permanent collection will be on view in the museum's main galleries. In Depth: A Closer Look at MMoCA's Permanent Collection features more than one hundred paintings, prints, photographs, mixed-media works, and sculptures. These works constitute one of the largest exhibitions ever drawn from the collection. 
In Depth is organized by guest curator Richard H. Axsom, PhD, a nationally recognized print scholar, award-winning author, and Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Michigan. The exhibition opens to the public at 5:30 pm on February 2 as part of the First Fridays at MMoCA celebration, and will be on view through Sunday, April 15. A series of gallery talks and other educational events for adults and children accompanies the exhibition.
The museum's permanent collection traces its origins to a major gift from Rudolph and Louise Langer in 1968. The Langers became active supporters of MMoCA's predecessor, the Madison Art Association, in 1927, when they moved to Madison from the East Coast. Their gift to the museum four decades later included a large collection of works on paper, including an exceptional group of modern Mexican prints. Through donations and museum purchases, the collection has grown to more than 5,000 works and has become an important community resource. Works span the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and represent many esteemed artists. In Depth focuses on the following significant areas of strength within the collection. 
The American Pop art movement, which began in the early 1960s, explored imagery from popular culture, including advertising, comics, and consumer products. In Depth features works by many well-known artists who became established during this period, including Jim Dine, Red Grooms, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Edward Ruscha, and Wayne Thiebaud. Key among the works on view is a large photogravure by Robert Rauschenberg, an aquatint by James Rosenquist, and a portfolio of six screenprints by Andy Warhol­all recent gifts to the museum from collector Stephen Dull.
As with other forms of contemporary art, photographers working in recent decades have focused on issues of personal identity.  Ethnicity, gender, and confessional and autobiographical content are key components of the photographs on view by Jan Groover, Duane Michals, Richard Misrach, Cindy Sherman, and other contemporary photographers. And while traditional gelatin silver prints are well represented, new photographic media such as Cibachrome and dye-coupler processes are prominent, as are large-scale works and works incorporating multiple photographs and superimposed elements. 
Artists' use of objects not originally intended as art materials dates to Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp in the early decades of the twentieth century. This strategy enjoyed resurgence in the late 1940s and 50s in American sculpture. MMoCA's collection includes both sculptures and framed assemblages that incorporate found objects. Aaron Bohrod, Donald Lipski, and Louise Nevelson are among the artists who found these materials appealing for their evocative and aesthetic qualities. The practice of using preexisting components continues to appeal to many artists today.  
Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who died in 2002 at the age of 100, is considered the greatest Mexican photographer of the twentieth century. In a career that lasted nearly 80 years, Bravo photographed his native country with a perspective that incorporated both traditional Mexican culture and European modernism, most especially surrealism. In Depth will exhibit a selection from the first of two portfolios that Bravo printed in the late 70s from earlier negatives. 
Also on view in the exhibition are ten prints from the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP), the artist-run print shop that flourished in Mexico City in the 1930s and 40s. Both emerging and established artists published prints at TGP and many of the posters and other works produced at the studio were conceived as agents of social change. 
Beginning in the 1930s, John Steuart Curry, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood and other regionalists sought to illuminate the defining qualities of the Midwest through their painted landscapes. In Depth includes works by each of these artists, as well as contemporary artists who continue to explore the Midwest landscape. Among the artworks on view are photographs by Gregory Conniff, Archie Lieberman, and Alec Soth, as well as paintings by Laura Dronzek, Lois Ireland, Dennis Nechvatal, and Tom Uttech. 
Following World War II and throughout the 1960s, Chicago and New York were the primary centers for photographers who documented urban life in an informal, gestural style. This last modernist phase of American photography, which explored the life of the street with a snapshot aesthetic and journalistic curiosity, had no European counterpoint. Among the best-known photographers represented in In Depth are Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, and Aaron Siskind; all employed traditional gelatin silver printing. 
In the 1950s and 60s, Chicago became the country's most important center for collectors of surrealist art. During the same period, artists working in the new traditions of Chicago Imagism and the Chicago Surrealist Group embraced surrealist elements in their works. Faculty and students at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago were particularly influenced by this focus, including some who went on to teach or live in Wisconsin. Surrealism reached a ready audience with Marshall Glasier, Karl Priebe, John Wilde, and other local artists and faculty at the University of Wisconsin. In Depth showcases surrealist works from the initial postwar period and from artists working in a contemporary-art context, including Fred Stonehouse and Erik Weisenburger.  
Generous support for In Depth: A Closer Look at MMoCA's Permanent Collection has been provided by James and Sylvia Vaccaro; Jan Marshall Fox and Don Bednarek; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation and the Overture Foundation; the Exhibition Initiative Fund; the Madison Trust of the Brittingham Fund, Inc.; the Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; and a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin. The First Fridays opening of the exhibition has been generously supported by Newcomb Construction Company.
Admission to exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is free of charge. Free admissions are supported through memberships and through generous contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations.

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