Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Contact Info: 

Stephen Fleischman, Director
608.257.0158 x 225 or

Katie Kazan, Director of Public Information     
608.257.0158 x 237 or

Major Exhibition and Publication of Chicago Imagists

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Plans Major Exhibition and Publication of Chicago Imagists

Representative artworks may be viewed.
High-resolution image files are available to the media upon request.

MADISON, WI--In the late 1960s, art audiences were introduced to a vibrant new generation of artists who would soon be identified collectively as the Chicago Imagists. Like the Pop artists in New York, Los Angeles, and London, who were somewhat older, these young artists drew inspiration from the everyday urban world and popular culture. But despite these common interests, the Chicago Imagists were more focused on a fantasy art of brilliant color, graphic strength, and free line. With sources and inspirations that ranged from comic books to surrealism, the Chicago Imagists trafficked in exuberant and irreverent satire that spoke to the political and social foibles, as well as the whimsy of contemporary life at the end of the tumultuous 1960s and into the 1970s.

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) will present a major exhibition of works by the Chicago Imagists opening September 10, 2011, and continuing through January 15, 2012.Chicago Imagists at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art will include more than 75 works by Roger Brown, Sarah Canright, Ed Flood, Art Green, Philip Hanson, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Suellen Rocca, Barbara Rossi, Karl Wirsum, and Ray Yoshida. The exhibition is being organized by the museum’s curator of collections, Richard H. Axsom; director, Stephen Fleischman; and curator of exhibitions, Jane Simon.

Key to the exhibition are consummate paintings, sculptures, and unique works on paper from the museum’s “Bill McClain Collection of Chicago Imagism.” William H. McClain, Halvorson Professor of Bacteriology, Emeritus, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, built his holdings of Chicago Imagist works over thirty years of close contact with the artists. Many of the nearly 100 works acquired by the museum from Bill McClain in 2010 will be presented to a public audience for the first time as part of Chicago Imagists at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a major publication. Also titled Chicago Imagists, this book is conceived as a new standard reference on the artists, their works, and the context within which the Imagist art emerged. The richly illustrated volume will include essays by Lynne Warren, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Cécile Whiting, professor of art history at the University of California, Irvine; and the exhibition curators. Together, these writings will comprise the most extensive examination to date of the Imagist artists, their influences, and their place within American history and art history.

In addition to the book and exhibition, the museum will present a lecture series featuring Imagist artists, collectors, and book contributors, as well as the exhibition curators. Encompassing in scope and scholarship, MMoCA’s Chicago Imagist project will provide new insight and critical analysis of Chicago’s major artistic movement, while introducing new audiences to the significant visual pleasures of Imagist artworks.

To date, generous funding for Chicago Imagists at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts; The DeAtley Family Foundation; Perkins Coie LLP; Daniel and Natalie Erdman; MillerCoors; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission; and  MMoCA Volunteers.



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 volunteer 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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