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Stephen Hilyard: The Beautiful Lie

December 1, 2007 – February 17, 2008


The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art will present recent works by Madison artist Stephen Hilyard. Stephen Hilyard: The Beautiful Lie uses videos and photographic works to explore the power and reliability of the image in contemporary culture. The exhibition will be on view in MMoCA’s State Street Gallery.

Works in the exhibition include a recent series of compositions entitled King Wave in which Hilyard uses dramatic—and doctored—photographs to probe the truthfulness and iconic stature of the image. Compositions in this series show monstrous green waves coupled with diminutive images of curb architecture in Los Angeles cemeteries. By juxtaposing these radically different landscape images, the artist demonstrates the close ties and tension between popular culture and the sacred.

Stephen Hilyard: The Beautiful Lie also includes photographs from the series 50 Views of H.M.S. Belfast. Hilyard’s images of the moored battleship are presented as sexualized and ironic depictions of a popular tourist attraction. In the accompanying artist’s book, those same images are paired with phrases from the “Litany of Loreto,” a liturgical prayer dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

A trilogy of videos by the artist will also play in the gallery. The first in the trilogy, Always, shows a dancing cloud that twists and flips to the melody of Willie Nelson’s “You Were Always on My Mind.” This video will be back-projected to be visible from the street, thereby engaging visitors both inside and outside the gallery. The second video, One Life, combines dialogue from a daytime soap opera with animated images of spring blossoms on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and the staccato movement of bees. The final video, Sunflower, pairs video imagery of melting pack ice on Lake Superior with a narrative sequence co-authored by Hilyard and Jon Wei.

Stephen Hilyard was born and raised in Northern England. He studied architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art and received a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Humberside, Hull, UK. In the 1990s, Hilyard moved to the United States He received a master’s of fine arts degree from the University of Southern California in 1997, and since then has been making conceptually driven works of art, including videos, installations, photographs, textile-based objects, and wood-carvings. He is an associate professor of Digital Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His works have been shown at The Renaissance Society, Chicago, IL; the Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, MN; the SOO Visual Arts Center, Minneapolis; the Platform Gallery, Seattle; the Haus Gallery, Pasadena, CA; and the Cherry de los Reyes Gallery, Los Angeles.

Exhibition Support

Generous support for Stephen Hilyard: The Beautiful Lie has been provided by the Harpo Foundation; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission, with additional funds from the Overture Foundation; American TV; 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.