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Curators’ Choice: New Works in MMoCA’s Collection

June 6, 2009 – November 8, 2009

illustration of an abstract, very distorted face
Chris Finley, Sweat Daddy Drool Fish Bird Portrait, 1999. Sign enamel on canvas over wood, 24 x 24 inches. Gift of Sam and Shanit Schwartz, Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
print by Claes Oldenburg with sketches of a handkerchief tucked inside a pocket, with an image of a handkerchief in a person's front pocket and the sketch overlayed on top of a picture of a street with a cathedral
Claes Oldenburg, Architect’s Handkerchief, 1997. Screenprint and chine collé, 31 1/4 x 23 1/4 inches. Gift of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
illustration print of the artist overlooking landscapes populated by recurring symbols of his
John Wilde, Wildeview, 1985. Lithograph. Gift of Shirley Gene Wilde, Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
illustration print of the artist overlooking landscapes populated by recurring symbols of his
John Wilde, Wildeview II, 1985. Etching. Gift of the Estate of Leon Epstein, Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Photorealistic oil painting of a woman from the shoulders and up, with longer ginger hair, bangs, and eyebrows. Her makeup consists of blush, red lipstick, and possibly light mascara. She wears a black top with a dainty diamond pendant necklace. She is standing outdoors.
Cindy Wright, Young Woman in London, 2007. Oil on canvas, 63 x 55 1/2 inches. Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Museum purchase, through an anonymous donor.

Overview

Curators’ Choice: New Works from MMoCA’s Collection presents selected works that have entered the permanent collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in the last three years. The exhibition, on view in the Museum’s State Street Gallery through November 8, 2009, features drawings, paintings, prints, sculpture, and mixed-media works by sixteen artists. The works were selected for the exhibition by MMoCA Curator of Collections Rick Axsom, Director Stephen Fleischman, and Curator of Exhibitions Jane Simon.

MMoCA’s permanent collection was established in 1968 through a major gift from Madison collectors Rudolph and Louise Langer. Since then, the collection has grown to number approximately 5,000 works, some purchased by the Museum, others donated by generous contributors.

Among the artists represented in Curators’ Choice are:

Vito Hannibal Acconci (American, b. 1940)

A New York-based artist, poet, and architect, Acconci was best known in the 1960s and 70s as a performance artist. Since then, he has transformed his art practice into an architecture studio. Acconci is represented in Curators’ Choice with a series of sketches proposing an arena for an urban park conceived in collaboration with Siah Armajani. The work, Drawing for the Proposed Arena in Loring Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota (1984), was a gift to MMoCA from Siah and Barbara Armajani.

Chris Finley (American, b. 1971)

Finley, who is known for his humorous and child-like installations and games, also creates paintings that combine abstraction and figuration. In Curators’ Choice, Finley is represented by Sweat Daddy Drool Fish Bird Portrait (1999), a gift of Sam and Shanit Schwartz.

Sam Gilliam (American, b. 1938)

An American color field painter, Gilliam is represented in the exhibition by Eiler Blues (1978), a wall-size oil painting with embedded objects on stitched and unstretched awning canvas. With its syncopated forms and subtle color, the work directs our attention to a series of physical actions: cut, stitch, shape, paint, hang, drape, lean against, and weigh down. Eiler Blues was given to the museum by Donald and Nancy Eiler.

Sol LeWitt (American, 1928–2007)

Sol LeWitt, who stressed the idea behind his work over its execution, is regarded as one of the leading exponents of minimalism and conceptual art. LeWitt is represented in Curators’ Choice by the drawing Vertical Lines, Not Straight, Not Touching, from a series produced in 1990. The work was promised to MMoCA by the artist.

Mark Mulhern (American, b. 1951)

Milwaukee artist Mark Mulhern is represented in the exhibition by My Goals in Analysis (1982). In addition to a number of symbolic items, the canvas features an individual—presumably the artist—reclining on a couch while a psychiatrist sits with his legs crossed. The expressionist style of the work reinforces its self-reflective theme. My Goals in Analysis was a gift to MMoCA from Bill White and Kathie Nichols.

Claes Oldenburg (American, b. Sweden 1929)

Claes Oldenburg is represented in the exhibition by the screenprint Architect’s Handkerchief (1997), which visualizes a proposed sculpture for the city of Münster, Germany. Never realized, the sculpture was later editioned by Oldenburg in several versions, one of which was installed in the Rooftop Sculpture Garden of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art from 2006 until June 2009. The screenprint was a gift to the museum from Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

David Russick (American, b. 1961)

David Russick is represented in Curators’ Choice by the abstract painting Pilgrimage (1992), which features a divided canvas: colorful overlapping brushstrokes on one side, two simple painted rectangles on the other. Russick is also a sculptor and the chief exhibition designer at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Pilgrimage was a gift to MMoCA from Bill McClain.

John Wilde (American, 1919–2006)

Wisconsin artist John Wilde is represented in the exhibition by Wildeview (a lithograph) and Wildeview II (an etching). Both works were created in 1985 and both are self-portraits. The artist, as lord of his creative domain, is seen overlooking landscapes populated by many of the recurring symbols he employed during his long and productive career. Wildeview was a gift of Shirley Wilde; Wildeview II was a gift of the Estate of Leon Epstein.

Cindy Wright (Belgian, b. 1972)

Wright, who is based in Antwerp, is represented in Curators’ Choice by a larger-than-life portrait based on a photograph taken in a London park. Wright says that although the subject of the photograph agreed to pose, “her eyes are not going to let us notice what she really thinks or feels.” Young Woman in London (2007) was purchased by MMoCA through funds from an anonymous donor.

Also featured in the exhibition are works by Mari Eastman; Robert Hudson; Will Insley; Stephanie Pryor; Tyson Reeder; Alyson Shotz; and Ida Wyman.


Exhibition Support

Generous funding for Curators’ Choice has been provided by Bill White and Kathie Nichols; Jeff Levy; the Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; and a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.