Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Monday, September 17, 2012
Contact Info: 

Katie Kazan, Director of Public Information
608.257.0158 x 237 or

Richard H. Axsom, Curator
608.257.0158 x 226 or

High-resolution image files are available to the media.


The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter

The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter 
At the Madison Museum of  Contemporary Art 
October 5, 2012–January 6, 2013 

MADISON, WI--The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art presents The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter beginning Friday, October 5, 2012, in the museum’s State Street Gallery. Drawn from the Bill McClain Collection of Chicago Imagism, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the exhibition surveys the work of one of the leading Chicago artists of recent decades with more than thirty watercolors, drawings, prints, and oil paintings. The exhibition is accompanied by a 60-page catalog published by the museum.
On October 5, Robert Lostutter will be at MMoCA to present a gallery talk and sign copies of the exhibition catalog. These events, which begin at 6:30 pm, are part of a free MMoCA Nights opening celebration.
The exhibition will remain on view through January 6, 2013, with the exception of November 13-21, when it will be closed to accommodate the museum’s annual Holiday Art Fair.


In the early 1970s, on the first of many trips to Mexico, Lostutter was drawn to the tropical birds of the region, mesmerized by their otherworldly beauty. This experience led him to seize upon the theme that has defined his mature style. A superb draftsman and watercolorist, he began using his exceptional skills to make portraits of hybrid bird-men, a theme he continues to explore forty years later. 

Lostutter later turned to other locales for his subjects, including the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, and in the 1980s, he began exploring an alternate hybrid adorned with the leaves and petals of orchids. Both disturbing and radiantly beautiful, Lostutter’s bird-men and orchid-men are fusions of humanity and raw nature. His mythic beings evoke an earthly paradise in a domain often unnoticed and unseen. As Lostutter has said, “I firmly believe that people don’t quite see. Religion wants you to wait until you get to heaven and then you’ll be rewarded with a paradise. I titled one of my pieces This Is a Paradise Now. I’m saying, ‘Look around you. This is a paradise.’ ” 

Most works in the exhibition are in watercolor, the artist’s preferred medium. In the exhibition catalog, Lostutter describes his watercolor process as layering fine strokes of color over a light wash, moving from pale to dark and back again, sometimes using as many as three such rounds to complete the works. Having a keen interest in the artistic process that leads to a final work of art, Lostutter has a long-standing tradition of preserving, for personal reference, color charts and preliminary drawings that prepare the way for his completed paintings. A selection of these ancillary studies is included in the exhibition. 
Robert Lostutter is represented in numerous private and public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri; Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Milwaukee Art Museum; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; and Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; among others.


A richly illustrated 60-page catalog accompanies The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter. With more than 30 full-color illustrations, an essay by MMoCA curator Richard H. Axsom, who organized the exhibition, and a conversation with the artist, the catalog presents Lostutter’s history and insights, as well as many of his finest works. The catalog will be available through the Museum Store and beginning October 1, 2012. 

A generous contribution from Mark and Judy Bednar helped to make this publication possible.

Exhibition Sponsors

Generous support for The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter has been provided by Ben Marcus and Katie Dowling-Marcus; the Terry Family Foundation; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers. 

Related Programming

The following programs are free and open to the public.

October 5 • 5–9 pm 
MMoCA Nights Celebrates The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter
The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter opens on October 5 in MMoCA’s State Street Gallery. This MMoCA Nights will celebrate the exhibition with a talk by the artist, live music from Clocks in Motion, hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. 
Saturday, October 13 • 1-1:30 pm
Drop-in Tour
Marie Wunsch discusses The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter during this free drop-in tour.
Sunday, October 14 • 1-2:30 pm
Kids’ Art Adventures
Kids will create masks inspired by Robert Lostutter’s hybrid beings­just in time for Halloween. Kids’ Art Adventures invite families to make art together in MMoCA’s classroom following guided discussions of works on view in the museum’s galleries. Activities are designed for six- to ten-year-olds.
Thursday, October 25 • 12:30–1 pm 
Gallery Talk: Fred Stonehouse on the Art of Robert Lostutter
Fred Stonehouse will discuss works on view in The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter, focusing on the artist’s sumptuous use of color, flawless craftsmanship, and fantastic imagery.
An assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department, Fred Stonehouse is nationally known for his finely crafted, highly symbolic paintings. His works are in many private and public collections, including the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Milwaukee Art Museum; San Jose Museum of Art, California; and Tacoma Art Museum, Washington.
Thursday, November 8 • 12:30–1:15 pm 
Gallery Talk: Richard H. Axsom on The Hybrids of Robert Lostutter
MMoCA curator Richard H. Axsom will discuss the connection between mythological and religious “hybrid beings” and Robert Lostutter’s figures that combine human features with attributes of birds and orchids. Axsom will address the history and cultural significance of these creatures, and suggest connections between their meanings and Lostutter’s works.
Richard H. Axsom is curator at MMoCA and professor emeritus of art history, University of Michigan. In addition to his curatorial work, he has published extensively in the area of modern and contemporary prints, including a two-volume catalogue raisonné of Ellsworth Kelly’s prints.
This gallery talk is presented in conjunction with the Wisconsin Book Festival; for additional information, visit
Saturday, December 8 • 1-1:30 pm
Drop-in Tour
Cindy Koschmann discusses The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter during this free drop-in tour.


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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