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TL Solien: Myths & Monsters

May 17, 2008 – August 17, 2008

cartoonish oil painting featuring a side view of a character wearing a large, poofy dress
T.L. Solien, Sap, 2006–07. Oil and enamel on canvas, 60 1/8 x 72 3/8 x 1 5/8 inches. Museum Purchase Fund, Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
abstract oil painting
T.L. Solien, Elegy for a Dead Dog, 2002. Oil and enamel on canvas, 78 1/8 x 180 7/8 inches. Gift of TL and Deborah Solien, Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.


The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) presents a survey of the work of Madison-based artist TL Solien from May 17 to August 17, 2008, in the Museum’s Main Galleries. Featuring 43 paintings, prints, and unique works on paper, TL Solien: Myths & Monsters will examine works from the beginning of the artist’s career in the 1980s to the present day, focusing on Solien’s repeated iconography and sustained personal exploration. The exhibition will showcase the artist’s works from MMoCA’s permanent collection in addition to loans of important works from institutions, galleries, and personal collections in the region.

Throughout his prolific career, TL Solien has created works that interweave literal and metaphorical layers in an effort to convey complex thoughts and emotions. An influential figure in the Midwest for decades, Solien is also known nationally for canvases that explore personal experience with a dense visual lexicon of created and appropriated images. TL Solien: Myths & Monsters will feature works from the 1980s, as the artist explored life as a new father, to current works that employ literary figures as repositories for his thoughts and fears.

According to Jane Simon, who organized the exhibition, “the attraction to Solien’s work for art professionals and the general public emanates from his ability to think deeply and sensitively about career and family, culture and philosophy. Translated into shapes, forms, characters, and objects, and anchored by a mélange of colors and textures, his paintings evolve as meditations on life.”

TL Solien: Voyage of the Tin Man documents the artist at home in rural Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, and at work on his print, The Husband Lost at Sea, at Vermillion Editions Limited, a renowned print studio in Minneapolis. His home from 1983 to 1998, Pelican Rapids provided the artist with roots that, he says, “grew up out of the ground and connected to my body and went through my fingers to the paint.” In Voyage of the Tin Man, Solien discusses the themes he explores in his work and thoughtfully reflects on the importance of rural life to the pursuit of his art. The film will play continuously in the Main Galleries during exhibition hours.

About TL Solien

Writing in May 2004 about Solien’s “beguiling” paintings, New York Times art critic Ken Johnson said, “Mixing abstraction, appropriated cartoons, and illustrations and images of homey, old-time interiors, the paintings create a haunting narrative blend of the domestic and the hallucinatory.”

Also writing in The New York Times, art critic Roberta Smith observed in December 2006 that Solien “borrows from 19th-century illustration and folk art as well as personal memory, creating intimate stage-set-like scenes that can evoke anything from puppet shows to Cubism. The results frequently dazzle . . . .”

Solien’s works have been shown at the Des Moines Art Center, the National Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among other museums. His work is in collections across the country, including the Addison Gallery of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Walker Art Center, as well as the Tate Gallery in London.

TL Solien has lived in Madison since 1998 and is a professor in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Exhibition Support

TL Solien: Myths & Monsters has been generously funded by the Maia Foundation; U.S. Bank; University Research Park; 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 Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.