Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Contact Info: 

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

MMoCA Releases Exhibition Schedule September 2017 to April 2018

Rashaad Newsome: ICON

August 11 through December 3, 2017

in the Imprint Gallery                                                                       

Rashaad Newsome is a New York-based artist whose multidisciplinary practice combines collage, video, music, computer programming, and performance. On view in the museum’s Imprint Gallery, Rashaad Newsome: ICON focuses solely on the video-based component of the artist’s larger practice, and highlights works that showcase his engagement with the dance phenomenon of voguing. Although voguing emerged from Harlem’s queer ballroom scene during the 1960s and 70s, the dance style entered the cultural mainstream in 1990 with Madonna’s iconic music video “Vogue,” now remembered as a notorious instance of cultural appropriation. Newsome, however, celebrates the true origins of voguing, thereby reclaiming a vital cultural history by giving it back to the queer Black and Latino community from which it arose.

The exhibition includes Untitled (2008) and Untitled—New Way (2009), two of Newsome’s early works that document contemporary vogue culture. The artist filmed dancers’ vogue improvisations, edited the footage to isolate certain dance elements, and asked the dancers re-perform their movements based on his video-edited choreography. Also on view are two of the artist’s more recent video works, ICON (2014) and Stop Playing in My Face (2016), both of which weave together the exuberant pageantry of voguing with digitally-rendered backdrops of glittering architectural spaces. At a moment when individuals of all races are questioning sex and gender-based binaries, Newsome’s videos offer a timely examination of cultural power and agency within the context of gender, sexuality, and race.                                    


Sonja Thomsen: in the space of elsewhere

On view through mid-December

in the lobby    

Milwaukee-based artist Sonja Thomsen brings her photographic way of seeing to MMoCA’s lobby and Icon in a new commissioned installation titled in the space of elsewhere. Mobilizing the properties of light and time, she created an immersive environment that plays with the way light and shadow interact with the museum’s soaring architectural features. Her thoughtful placement of large-scale photographic murals, mirrored objects, metallic netting, and iridescent substrates will simultaneously direct and scatter beams of light across the lobby walls, floors, and surfaces, delicately interrupting the visual plane of the building’s interior and transforming our encounters with light, space, time, and movement.

Thomsen’s works enlist undulating magnitudes of scale and time, contracting inward and folding out and away—much like the folding and unfolding of a map. When beginning a new installation, she first constructs an artist book. The rhythm and movement of the book parallels the way she choreographs the movement of light through space using installation materials that reflect and refract, project and expand, and separate light into its variously colored beams. Speaking about her work, Thomsen explains that her interest lies in “creating spaces that highlight the inaccessible. There should always be a place for wonder; it is a direct line to new knowledge.”


Chele Isaac: the understory

September 2 through November 12, 2017

in the State Street Gallery

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is pleased to present a solo exhibition of work by Chele Isaac, a Madison-based artist who creates immersive environments through a combination of multi-channel video projection, sound, and sculpture. At MMoCA, an encompassing cylindrical structure, nearly 30 feet in diameter, serves as the architectural backdrop forIsaac’s seven-channel video, the understory. Projected in the round, Isaac’s non-linear narrative captures surprising connections and overlooked details found within the everyday, all of which comes together as a poetic investigation of our relationship to our changing environment.  

Opening Reception: Friday, September, 22 • 6–9 PM

MMoCA Opening of Chele Isaac: the understory                       

At 6:30 pm the artist will discuss her work in the lecture hall (seating capacity is limited). The evening will also offer music, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar in MMoCA’s lobby.


Tenacious Numismatic Hops Exchange (TNHE): a hop garden for unyielding people

On view indefinitely

in the Rooftop Sculpture Garden

New to the MMoCA Rooftop Sculpture Garden, Tenacious Numismatic Hops Exchange (TNHE): a hop garden for unyielding people (familiarly referred to as the Hops Exchange), is being subsumed by hop vines. Designed to resemble architectural trusses, this site-specific, living artwork combines the visual language of industrial construction with an ethic of social engagement. Meg Mitchell conceived the Hops Exchange as a platform to address the socioeconomic history of the plant and the ideas surrounding ownership and control of natural resources, among other complex contemporary issues.

Opening Reception: Friday, October 6 • 6–9 PM

MMoCA Opening of Tenacious Numismatic Hops Exchange (TNHE): a hop garden for unyielding people 

In addition to Gallery Night (5–9 pm) and the Gallery Night After Party (9-11 pm), MMoCA will celebrate artist Meg Mitchell’s rooftop installation Tenacious Numismatic Hops Exchange (TNHE): a hop garden for unyielding people from 6-9 pm on Friday, October 6. The Hops Exchange is a massive site-specific artwork that functions both as a trellis to support the growth and harvesting of hops, and as a platform for social engagement, educational programming, and artistic activity. The opening celebration will offer an artist-led participatory activity, music, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar.



November 4, 2017 through May 6, 2018

in the main galleries

BIG presents over thirty large-scale, modern and contemporary artworks from MMoCA’s permanent collection, including works by Sam Gilliam, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jennifer Steinkamp. Historically, large-scale art was reserved for mural paintings in the narrative tradition, but soon artists adopted large canvases to capture new and big ideas—particularly the Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s. This shift to a larger scale demanded galleries and museums adjust their spaces and viewers alter their way of engaging with the work. Through these large works, artists created a physical experience that demanded the viewer’s attention.

More than other formal elements in the visual arts—such as color, line, or shape—scale directs attention towards the capacity of the artwork to respond to a specific location and call into play the role of the viewer. Above all, the large-scale works of art in this exhibition have the ability to astonish.


Jaume Plensa: Talking Continents

December 2, 2017 through April 15, 2018

in the State Street Gallery

Jaume Plensa: Talking Continents is an exhibition of work by the celebrated Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, internationally known for his large-scale public sculptures that tap into literature, psychology, language, and history to address the collective unity inherent to the human condition.

Installed in the State Street Gallery, Talking Continents includes nineteen stainless steel sculptures suspended in the gallery space to create a floating archipelago of cloud-like shapes. Plensa’s biomorphic creations are comprised of a multitude of die-cut steel letters derived from nine different languages. Metaphorically imagined as islands or continents, the multi-lingual sculptures speak to the diversity of language and culture, while simultaneously gesturing toward global interconnectedness as a path to tolerance and acceptance. This notion of universal understanding is reinforced by representations of human figures seated atop five of the floating continents. Similarly assembled from a steel motif of alphabetic characters, the gathering of figures encourages us to think about the ways in which we are linked together as a collective humanity. Through his installation, Plensa offers us a space to meet, observe, and contemplate while engaging in a dialogue that inspires inward reflection and outward generosity.

Opening Reception: Friday, Dec. 1 • 6–9 PM

MMoCA Opening of Jaume Plensa: Talking Continents    

 At 6:30 pm the artist will discuss his work in the lecture hall (seating capacity is limited). The evening will also offer music, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar in MMoCA’s lobby.



Opens December 2, 2017

in the Henry Street Gallery

In 1912, when Picasso and Braque glued newspaper clippings onto their cubist still-lifes they unwittingly ushered in a new era of wordplay into the history of modern art. The written word was abstracted from the structure of language and introduced as a graphic, artistic element. From the fragmented “word salads” of the Dadaists to the speech balloons of mid-century Pop art, artists have frequently used language, often ironic or enigmatic, to enhance the resonance of their work. In his screenprint Sin (1970), Ed Ruscha transforms the word into a mountainous object that looms over a trompe l’oeil rendering of an olive. According to Ruscha, “words are pattern-like, and in their horizontality they answer my investigation into landscape. They’re almost not words—they are objects that become words.” Art/Word/Image examines the use of language in art through selections from the permanent collection including works by Robert Cottingham, Bruce Nauman, Fred Stonehouse, and John Wilde.

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