Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Contact Info: 

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


MADISON, WI- The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) announces two new exhibitions, initiatives of the museum’s new curators who were each promoted to new roles last year. Following the 2017 retirement of senior curator Richard H. Axsom, Ph.D, Leah Kolb was appointed Curator of Exhibitions and Mel Becker Solomon was named Curator of the Permanent Collection. Kolb focuses on working directly with contemporary artists, developing new exhibition projects, and oversees the presentation of traveling exhibitions that MMoCA borrows from other museums. Becker Solomon oversees the exhibition, interpretation, and growth of the museum’s permanent collection.

A leading arts organization, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art was established in 1901, making it the oldest cultural institution in the area. MMoCA engages over 800,000 people a year in dynamic art experiences. Admission to the museum is free, providing wide access to changing exhibitions in four galleries, in addition to art installations in the lobby and the Rooftop Sculpture Garden. Under new curatorial leadership, the community will see the continuation of the museum’s commitment to organizing exhibitions that create opportunities to experience the work of emerging and established artists.

Prior to being promoted to Curator of Exhibitions, Leah Kolb worked closely with Axsom as MMoCA’s Associate Curator. Together, they organized the traveling exhibition Frank Stella Prints: A Retrospective (2016) and the accompanying publication “Frank Stella Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne.” They continue their collaboration with an upcoming catalogue raisonné of Terry Winters’ prints and drawings, which is slated to be published in 2020. In her role as Associate Curator, Kolb also secured funding to reopen the museum’s black box gallery that is dedicated solely to moving image art. She has since commenced a consistent program of video-based exhibitions featuring work by established and emerging artists, including William Kentridge, Kim Schoen, Rashaad Newsome, and José Carlos Teixeira. Organizing recent exhibitions such as Claire Stigliani: Half-Sick of Shadows (2016), and Kambui Olujimi: Zulu Time (2017), Kolb has demonstrated a commitment to working with artists who address complex contemporary issues though experimental approaches to art. 

“It is an honor to build on the museum’s legacy by thinking about ways to include new voices, perspectives, and methods of artistic creation,” Kolb stated. “We have an exciting opportunity to present exhibitions by artists who are pushing the boundaries, both visually and conceptually. It is through their work that we can open up more space for conversations within our community and within the broader art world, and I am looking forward to seeing where it takes us.”

Mel Becker Solomon, newly appointed Curator of the Permanent Collection, has worked as a museum professional for the past eight years.  Prior to joining the staff at MMoCA, she served as Assistant Research Curator in the Prints and Drawings department at the Art Institute of Chicago. Her previous projects include serving as author and co-editor of an online catalogue on Gauguin in addition to her contributions to publications on Matisse, Renoir, and Manet. Becker Solomon received her M.A. in Modern and Contemporary Art History, Theory, and Criticism in 2014 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she received the department’s fellowship award upon the completion of her thesis on Chicago artist Ivan Albright’s infusion of the metaphysical in his paintings.

“With over 5,000 works of art, the museum’s permanent collection is an incredible resource and a real treasure of Madison. I am honored to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for works on paper and Chicago Imagism, which are well represented in the fantastic collection here at MMoCA,” stated Becker Solomon.

MMoCA is pleased to announce the following upcoming exhibitions:


May 5–August 5, 2018

State Street Gallery

MMoCA Opening: May 4 • 5-9 pm with an artist talk 6:30-7:15 pm

(In conjunction with Gallery Night, admission is free.)

Irene Grau is a Spanish conceptual artist who challenges the boundaries of contemporary painting, the perception of color, and the limits of space. Taking the act of painting beyond the studio and off the canvas, she enters into the landscape to discover moments when the power of pure color alters our awareness of the world around us. In Irene Grau: construction season, on view in MMoCA's State Street Gallery from May 5 through August 5, 2018, Grau will present a new body of work she began last summer during her five-week artist residency in Madison.

Grau's work is grounded in the history of plein air painting, an in-situ practice of outdoor landscape painting based on direct observation, initiated by artists such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro in the latter half of the nineteenth century. These Impressionist leaders ushered in future experimentations in modernist art-making, including the most simplified expression of formal abstraction: the painted monochrome.

Playing with the concept and process of plein air painting, Grau traversed the Madison landscape not to recreate specific scenes with pigment on canvas, but to identify existing instances of monochromatic abstraction. She discovered a vernacular form of mark-making in the vibrant, color-coded lines and shapes spray-painted across the streets and sidewalks by utility workers. Appearing random and cryptic to the untrained eye, this sanctioned graffiti points to the subterranean infrastructure of pipes and wires that powers our city. By reframing the overlooked details within our everyday surroundings, Grau transforms a standardized mode of communication used by public works departments across the country into a series of monochrome paintings—plein air paintings not of landscape, but in it.


May 19–September 2, 2018

MMoCA Opening: June 1 • 6-9 pm

Far Out: Art from the 1960s explores art from a decade that introduced such movements as Pop, Op, Minimalism, Kinetic, Fluxus, and Conceptual Art, while weaving in the social and historical narrative of that time. The exhibition includes works by Calvin Burnett, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, Miriam Schapiro, Victor Vasarely, and the Chicago Imagists. Featuring works pulled from the MMoCA permanent collection, Far Out will be on view in the museum’s main galleries and featured in “The Madison Reunion,” conference on the 1960s taking place on campus in June of 2018.

The Sixties was a decade of radical experimentation that witnessed an incredible cultural and artistic revolution. The consumer-fueled optimism of the beginning of the decade was quickly dissolved by the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, world-wide student protests, and nightmarish assassinations—all broadcast into homes through the dominant medium of the time: television. A counterculture soon formed that rejected the conservative norms imposed by the previous generation and embraced inclusivity.

While the social and political turmoil of the decade prompted artists to create politicized works of art, artists were also in the process of rejecting their own art historical precedents and developing a counterculture of their very own. Seeking to reject the “artist as hero” mentality and the emotive and gestural brushstrokes that dominated Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s, artists began to look at popular culture and play with more formal elements in art. Artists experimented with optics, reincorporated the modernist grid, and downgraded the role of the artist’s hand in the creation of an art object—thereby rejecting the autobiographical and spiritual aspects imbued into the history of art. Instead, artists sought to incorporate the physical world around them bringing life into art and art into life.


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.    

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