Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Contact Info: 

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


New Exhibition Explores the Use of Text in Visual Art 

December 2, 2017–May 20, 2018


The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) is pleased to present Art/Word/Image, an exhibition comprised of 19 artworks pulled from the museum’s permanent collection. A number of works in this exhibition have not been on view in decades. Art/Word/Image is on view in the Henry Street Gallery through May 20, 2018.

A radical shift in art making occurred in the twentieth century. The concept of depicting the physical world in art—through a landscape, a portrait, a still life—was altered once newspaper clippings were included in the Cubist collages of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. The technique of interjecting words liberated painting from its formal properties. An artist’s subject could be an idea or it could be extracted from the printed page. The floodgates opened and soon Dada and Surrealist artists used typographic elements and wordplay to reflect their own social and political ambitions.

Art/Word/Image focuses on art made after 1960, as language was being harnessed by Conceptual artists in place of brush on canvas and Pop artists were reclaiming the false imagery found in advertising. The artist Ray Yoshida began cutting out speech balloons and architectural elements from comic strips in 1967 as a way to refresh his artistic practice and rethink just how a work of art is created. He collected thousands of these “specimens,” as he called them, which he stored in a variety of canisters around his Chicago apartment—even inside cough-drop tins. In his collage AAIEEE! (1996), Yoshida arranged the speech bubbles from Peanuts, Wizard of Id, and Garfield to generate a new way in which to engage with comics. There is no narrative nor order to the fragments, instead Yoshida presents an enigmatic pattern that encourages contemplation of the encoded systems of communication that are inherently tied to the printed word. More recently, this exploration continued with artists such as Ed Ruscha, Jim Nutt, and Jenny Holzer—a demonstrated by their work in Art/Word/Image.

Each artwork presented in Art/Word/Image illustrates the myriad ways artists incorporate words into their practice: as narrative, found object, signifier, social and political commentary, or in jest. These works welcome interpretation and introspection, inviting us to reflect on the numerous messages and images we encounter in our daily lives.

Exhibitions in the Henry Street Gallery are generously funded through an endowment established by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.


Housed in a soaring, Cesar Pelli-designed building, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art provides free exhibitions and education programs that engage people in modern and contemporary art. The museum’s four galleries offer changing exhibitions that feature established and emerging artists. The Rooftop Sculpture Garden provides an urban oasis with an incredible view. The museum is open: Tuesday through Thursday, noon–5 pm; Friday, noon–8 pm; Saturday, 10 am–8 pm; Sunday, noon–5 pm; and is closed on Mondays. 

# # #