Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Monday, July 30, 2018
Contact Info: 

Erika Monroe-Kane, Director of Communications
608.257.0158 x 237 or erika@mmoca.org

EYE DEAL: ABSTRACT BODIES OF THE CHICAGO IMAGISTS

MADISON, WI- The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) will present an exhibition highlighting their acclaimed collection of works by the Chicago Imagists in Eye Deal: Abstract Bodies of the Chicago Imagists. On view from August 11, 2018 through June 9, 2019, the exhibition will feature artwork by Sarah Canright, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Christina Ramberg, Suellen Rocca, Barbara Rossi, and Karl Wirsum.

The Imagists were a group of figurative artists that emerged in Chicago in the mid-1960s. They employed the comic book, commercial advertising, and the grotesque to render detailed compositions full of color and sexual innuendo. Poking fun at the extreme silhouettes presented in advertisements of the 1950s and ‘60s, the Imagists created their own exaggerated, warped bodies that playfully mocked the bulging muscles and tiny waistlines of society’s ideal physique. In Oh Dat Sally (1967-68), Nutt’s densely etched line emphasizes the intensity of the nightmarish grooming ritual taking place. The ghoulish Sally wields a sharp blade to shave her body in adherence with the “shiny ‘n nice” standard reinforced in 1960s advertisements like those for the hair removal product Nair. In the upper-right corner is the suggestive phrase “take it off!!”—one Nutt takes to the extreme; her blade smooths and preens her body to remove any bumps and imperfections to the point where she has no lips, eyes, hands, or feet.

They continued to parody the false promises featured in advertisements throughout their artistic careers. In Beautify (1994), Nilsson presents an image of a woman covered in the trappings of the cosmetic industry and an invisible mirror, created by the torn perforated edges of two sketchbook sheets, which divides the middle of the composition into reality and her perceived self. Her face is covered in a thick mask of facial cream and above her lipstick nose her askew, crazed eyes—clipped from the pages of a magazine—peer through the façade. Her torso is a jumble of breasts and knees conveying the abstract commercial ideal of unnaturally soft, round, smooth curves.

The Imagists toyed with the bizarre images that inspired and confronted them in their everyday lives. Parodying the odd, unrealistic bodily ideals in printed matter, these artworks are a witty commentary on the extreme modifications required to transform the body into the consumer ideal. The works presented in Eye Deal reveal the unhinged oddities of the human form when left to the wild imaginations of this humorous and colorful group of Chicago artists.

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

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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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