Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Contact Info: 

Erika Monroe-Kane, Director of Communications
608.257.0158 x 237 or

Taking Their Place: Recent Acquisitions in Context

Taking Their Place: Recent Acquisitions in Context

Exhibition Showcases Artwork New to Madison and Local Favorites

September 19, 2015 – January 3, 2016


MMoCA Nights Opening Reception

Friday, September 18 from 6–9pm


MADISON, WI --  The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) will present Taking Their Place: Recent Acquisitions in Context, in celebration of its ten-year anniversary in its striking Cesar Pelli-designed building. Drawn exclusively from the museum’s permanent collection, Taking Their Place highlights more than 50 works in various media that have entered MMoCA’s permanent collection within the past decade, over a dozen of which are on display for the first time. By bringing together newer acquisitions with more familiar favorites, this exhibition illuminates the conceptual and formal connections between existing and newer works, and offers insight into how and why a museum builds its collection.

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. Through donations and museum purchases, the collection now includes over 5,500 drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, and multimedia works spanning the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Although acquired independently of one another and over an extended period of time, the works on view in this exhibition are grouped together according to stylistic movements well represented in MMoCA’s collection, including Pop and Chicago Imagism, or according to time-honored themes such as still life, portraiture, and the art of social critique.

When joined with other artworks on view in the gallery, a number of MMoCA’s recent acquisitions demonstrate how certain creative styles and subjects from the past continue to endure, resurfacing over time in innovative ways. Pop art, for example, emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s with artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg transforming commonplace objects and familiar products from popular culture into fine art. Employing imagery indicative of America's consumer culture, these artists celebrated the beauty of mundane objects, signs and advertising, and commercial processes. Andy Warhol’s Red Book (prefix F027) expresses the Pop impulse. The sixteen snap-shot style photos included in this album (he created over one hundred) offer an intimate view into Warhol’s eclectic milieu of pop culture celebrities and art world icons. The Red Books serve a dual function as both art objects and archival mementos embodying elements of Warhol’s aesthetic vision; the instantaneous nature of the Polaroid photograph speaks to the artist’s interest in the disposability of modern culture and the photograph as a ready-made. Although their artistic vision might appear different than their predecessors, many contemporary artists continue to incorporate aspects of pop art in their work. Taking suburbia, video game imagery, and cartoon characters as subjects, California-based artist Chris Finley presents a twisted vision of American excess.  He uses common sign painter’s enamels to compose his paintings, often creating a frenzied fusion of abstraction and contemporary Pop.

In addition, Taking Their Place showcases MMoCA’s forward-looking mission to investigate the informational and aesthetic possibilities of digital, electronic, and moving-image art. Several works included in the exhibition speak to the museum’s expanded commitment to collect contemporary works of art employing digital technologies and time-based sequencing, such as Jennifer Steinkamp’s digital projection, Rapunzel 9. Shimmering and seductive, Rapunzel 9 blankets the vertical length of the wall with swaying vines of wildflowers that appear to dematerialize the space of the gallery, transforming it into an illusionistic, enchanted landscape. For this work, the artist was inspired by the Grimm fairy tale about a woman so enraptured by the rapunzel plant, or rampion, growing in a witch’s garden that she gives up her unborn child in exchange for the flowering herb. The child, who the witch names Rapunzel and keeps locked away in a tall tower, eventually grows to be a beautiful maiden whose long braided hair facilitates her eventual escape. Steinkamp, who is known for helping bring digital art into the mainstream of contemporary art, uses computer animation software to create immersive installations that fuse beauty and rhythmic movement into hypnotic works of art.

Taking Their Place illustrates the history of MMoCA’s collection, its current strengths, and its exciting areas of growth in recent years through the addition of new artists, ideas, and perspectives. In tribute to the museum’s former and current benefactors, the exhibition highlights the impact their gifts and purchases have made on the museum by enabling the continued development of the permanent collection, which serves as an important community resource. 

Generous funding for Taking Their Place has been provided by the David and Paula Kraemer Fund; BioSentinel INC; Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek SC: Gina and Michael Carter; JoAnne Robbins and David Falk; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.


Gallery Talk

Thursday, October 8, 1–1:45 pm

Richard H. Axsom on Taking Their Place: Recent Acquisitions in Context

Join MMoCA senior curator Richard H. Axsom in the main galleries for a discussion of the highlights of works acquired for the museum’s permanent collection over the past decade. Richard H. Axsom is professor emeritus of art history at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where he taught courses on modern and contemporary art for twenty-eight years, and is a nationally recognized art writer who has published extensively in the area of the modern and contemporary print.


Drop-in Tour

Saturday, November 14, 1–2 pm

Explore the key role played by women artists, such as Gladys Nilsson in the emergence of the distinctive style known as Chicago Imagism and as seen in Taking Their Place.

Drop by MMoCA for lively and informal discussions of MMoCA’s current exhibitions, on Saturdays at 1 pm. Led by MMoCA docents, these free, 30-minute guided tours provide you with the tools to consider artists’ creative decisions and construct meaningful interpretations of their work. Meet in the museum lobby.


Free Family Resources

Kids’ Art Adventures

Sunday, November 8, 1–2:30 pm

Dream up a funky figure that can move to a groove. Check out the wild characters brought to life by the Chicago Imagists. Then, head to MMoCA’s education workshop to build an articulated character and make it dance.

At Kids’ Art Adventures families are invited to make art together in MMoCA’s classroom following guided discussion of art on view in the museum’s exhibitions. Six- to ten-year-olds and their families should meet at 1 pm in MMoCA’s lobby; children must be accompanied by an adult. Space at is limited to thirty children and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sunday, December 13, 1–2:30 pm

In Jennifer Steinkamp’s large scale animation Rapunzel 9, long strands of rampion flowers wave and flow like the tresses of the Grimm brothers’ beloved fairytale character. Recreate this movement in a lightweight mobile, dance stick, or crown and see its elements stir at the slightest breeze.

At Kids’ Art Adventures families are invited to make art together in MMoCA’s classroom following guided discussion of art on view in the museum’s exhibitions. Six- to ten-year-olds and their families should meet at 1 pm in MMoCA’s lobby; children must be accompanied by an adult. Space at is limited to thirty children and available on a first-come, first-served basis.


Learning Centers

MMoCA's Learning Centers offer families a variety of fun and engaging resources for exploring MMoCA’s exhibitions. Children’s books and a range of kid-friendly activities promote imaginative play inspired by works of art. Families may also use the MMoCAkids ArtPack, a shoulder bag filled with a flexible set of interactive creativity tools for use in the galleries and at home.

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