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Something Wicked This Way Comes

January 24, 2009 – April 11, 2009

installation view of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" showing title wall text and a sculptural artwork in between
installation view of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" showing framed artworks hanging on the wall
installation view of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" showing framed artworks hanging on the wall
installation view of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" showing framed artworks hanging on the wall

Overview

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.

installation view of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" showing framed artworks hanging on the wall

Artwork

Where or When (Things Past). Artist: Gertrude Abercrombie. Date: 1948. Medium: oil on canvas.

Where or When (Things Past)

1948

Gertrude Abercrombie

Learn more about Where or When (Things Past).
General Nuke. Artist: Robert Arneson. Date: 1986. Medium: lithograph.

General Nuke

1986

Robert Arneson

Learn more about General Nuke.
Vertical Bird Man. Artist: Leonard Baskin. Date: 1969. Medium: etching.

Vertical Bird Man

1969

Leonard Baskin

Learn more about Vertical Bird Man.
Crouched Animal. Artist: Leonard Baskin. Medium: etching.

Crouched Animal

Leonard Baskin

Learn more about Crouched Animal.
Monuments. Artist: David Becker. Date: 1979. Medium: etching and engraving.

Monuments

1979

David Becker

Learn more about Monuments.
Meneur d’Ombres. Artist: Lars Bo. Medium: etching.

Meneur d’Ombres

Lars Bo

Learn more about Meneur d’Ombres.
Untitled (Les Grande Eclipse) [sic]. Artist: John Buck. Date: 1982. Medium: woodcut.

Untitled (Les Grande Eclipse) [sic]

1982

John Buck

Learn more about Untitled (Les Grande Eclipse) [sic].
No Place to Hide. Artist: Cheryl Burgess. Date: 1983. Medium: intaglio.

No Place to Hide

1983

Cheryl Burgess

Learn more about No Place to Hide.
Incident. Artist: Gibson Byrd. Date: 1963. Medium: oil on canvas.

Incident

1963

Gibson Byrd

Learn more about Incident.
Liberation. Artist: Gibson Byrd. Date: 1973. Medium: oil on canvas.

Liberation

1973

Gibson Byrd

Learn more about Liberation.
Poker Night at Pentagon. Artist: Warrington Colescott. Date: 1983. Medium: soft-ground etching and aquatint, with relief rolls through stencils.

Poker Night at Pentagon

1983

Warrington Colescott

Learn more about Poker Night at Pentagon.
Death in Venice: Dark Gondola. Artist: Warrington Colescott. Date: 1971. Medium: Hard-and soft-ground etching, drypoint, and aquatint w vibrograver, & relief rolls through stencils.

Death in Venice: Dark Gondola

1971

Warrington Colescott

Learn more about Death in Venice: Dark Gondola.
Death in Venice: Dark Gondola. Artist: Warrington Colescott. Date: 1971. Medium: Hard-and soft-ground etching, drypoint, and aquatint w vibrograver, & relief rolls through stencils.

Death in Venice: Dark Gondola

1971

Warrington Colescott

Learn more about Death in Venice: Dark Gondola.

Exhibition Support

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.