Something Wicked This Way Comes
January 24, 2009 – April 11, 2009
The title of this exhibition is a warning uttered by one of the three witches in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The witch foresees the entrance of King Macbeth, who, after killing the King of Scotland, usurped the royal title for himself. At this point in the play, Macbeth is a traitor and murderer. The heinous actions motivated by his “vaulting ambition” trap Macbeth in a cycle of increasing evil, leading to his assassination as prophesized by the witches.
The witch’s admonition sets the stage for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s exploration of evil as visualized by modern and contemporary artists. Drawn from MMoCA’s permanent collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and photographs, which date from the early twentieth century to the present, Something Wicked This Way Comes affords an opportunity to reflect upon the nature of evil—its causes and consequences, and how it has been understood and represented in our time. Darker themes cut through all styles and movements of the modern and contemporary visual art traditions.
Before the modern era, Satan was evil incarnate. In the various Christian traditions of Western culture, the evils of the world reflected a fall from Grace, fostered by the temptations of the Devil and anger toward God. In the secular traditions, dating to ancient Greece, philosophers have taken another perspective: they situate evil in the malevolent actions of individuals and societies gone wrong. Expanding on this latter point of view, the modern age shifts the location of evil to political history, the acts of the individual, and the inner torments of the mind.
Representation of evil in the arts, from Greek tragedy to horror movies, has served to remind viewers of moral consequences, to purge fearful emotions, and to provide chilling experiences ranging from the truly horrifying to the “wicked good” scares of a Halloween night. Shakespeare’s witch sensed Macbeth’s approach and unlocked the door through which the wicked King of Scotland appears. Like the witch, the artists in this exhibition open the portal and let the frightful in.
Where or When (Things Past)
Vertical Bird Man
Untitled (Les Grande Eclipse) [sic]
No Place to Hide
Poker Night at Pentagon
Death in Venice: Dark Gondola
Death in Venice: Dark Gondola
Generous support for Something Wicked This Way Comes has been provided by James and Sylvia Vaccaro; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation and the Overture Foundation; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The First Fridays opening of the exhibition has been generously supported by Newcomb Construction Company; J.P. Cullen & Sons, Inc.; and Isthmus|TheDailyPage.com.