Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Monday, August 2, 2010
Contact Info: 

Katie Kazan, Director of Public Information
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True Self: The Search for Identity in Modern and Contemporary Art

True Self: The Search for Identity in Modern and Contemporary Art

August 18, 2010-Summer 2011

MADISON, WI—The “self,” the essential quality that makes a person distinct from all others, is a core theme in modern and contemporary art, and the focus of a new exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. True Self: The Search for Identity in Modern and Contemporary Artwill open in the museum’s Henry Street Gallery on August 18, 2010, and be on view through the early summer of 2011. 

All works featured in the exhibition are drawn from the museum’s permanent collection. The collection was established in 1968 and currently includes approximately 5,000 works.

The concern with the uniqueness of the individual dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. It has prevailed into the modern world, where it is commonly understood to be a distinct aspect of Western civilization. In the visual arts, the self has usually, though not always, been expressed through the portrait and self-portrait, which focus on the identity and psychology of the model. 

True Self explores the ways artists have understood and conveyed the essence of the self: through facial expression, body language, dress, and the particulars of setting. For the modern and contemporary artist, the true self is fluid, not fixed; layered, not clearly evident. The true self is both innate and determined by experience and culture. Never consistent, it is often self-contradictory.

Artists represented in the exhibition include Thomas Hart Benton, Sonya Clark, Chuck Close, Käthe Kollwitz, Alfred Leslie, Diego Rivera, Cindy Sherman, Hollis Sigler, Raphael Soyer, and Ida Wyman. 

True Self
 is the first in a trilogy of exhibitions that examines three defining themes in the art of our time. Beginning with a consideration of the nature of self, the remaining exhibitions will address the nature of society and the nature of reality.

Exhibitions in the Henry Street Gallery of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are generously funded through an endowment established by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.


Hours at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art are Tuesday–Thursday (noon–5 pm); Friday (noon–8 pm); Saturday (10 am–8 pm); and Sunday (noon–5 pm). The museum is closed on Mondays. 

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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