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Chicago Imagists at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

September 11, 2011 – January 15, 2012

installation view of the exhibition Chicago Imagists featuring framed artworks or canvases hung on several different walls and a tall vitrine display case
Photo by Maurice Thaler. © Maurice Thaler.
installation view of the exhibition Chicago Imagists featuring a close up of a paper doll-like wooden cutout of a person, painted in a cartoonish style
Photo by Maurice Thaler. © Maurice Thaler.
installation view of the exhibition Chicago Imagists featuring a painted wooden sculpture of a building, painted in a cartoonish style. three painted canvases or artworks are displayed on the walls surrounding the sculpture.
Photo by Maurice Thaler. © Maurice Thaler.
installation view of the exhibition Chicago Imagists featuring a painted wooden cutout shaped like a paper doll on a display platform. painted canvases or other artwork are hung on nearby walls.
Photo by Maurice Thaler. © Maurice Thaler.

Overview

In the late 1960s, art audiences were introduced to a vibrant new generation of artists who would soon be identified collectively as the Chicago Imagists. Like the Pop artists in New York, Los Angeles, and London, who were somewhat older, these young artists drew inspiration from the everyday urban world and popular culture. But despite these common interests, the Chicago Imagists were more focused on a fantasy art of brilliant color, graphic strength, and free line. With sources and inspirations that ranged from comic books to Surrealism, the Chicago Imagists trafficked in exuberant and irreverent satire that spoke to the political and social foibles, as well as the whimsy, of contemporary life at the end of the tumultuous 1960s and into the 1970s.

Chicago Imagists at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art will include more than 75 works by Roger Brown, Sarah Canright, Ed Flood, Art Green, Philip Hanson, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Suellen Rocca, Barbara Rossi, and Karl Wirsum, as well as their friend and mentor Ray Yoshida.

Key to the exhibition are consummate paintings, sculptures, and unique works on paper from the museum’s “Bill McClain Collection of Chicago Imagism.” Many of the nearly 100 works acquired by the museum from Bill McClain in 2010 will be presented to a public audience for the first time as part of Chicago Imagists at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

The exhibition is being organized by the Museum’s Curator of Collections, Richard H. Axsom; Director, Stephen Fleischman; and former Curator of Exhibitions, Jane Simon, and will be accompanied by a major publication. Titled Chicago Imagists, this richly illustrated book will include essays by Lynne Warren, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Cécile Whiting, professor of art history at the University of California, Irvine; and the exhibition curators. Together, these writings will comprise the most extensive examination to date of the Imagist artists, their influences, and their place within American history and art history.

Chicago Imagists at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art will be on view in the museum’s main galleries.


Exhibition Support

Generous support for Chicago Imagists at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts; The DeAtley Family Foundation; Ellen Rosner and Paul Reckwerdt; Perkins Coie LLP; Daniel and Natalie Erdman; J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.; MillerCoors; Tim and Mary Erdman; McGladrey; Hooper Corp. / General Heating and Air Conditioning; The Terry Family Foundation; the Madison Arts Commission, with additional funds from the Wisconsin Arts Board; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.