The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter
October 5, 2012 to January 6, 2013

Drawn from the permanent collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter surveys the work of one of the leading Chicago artists of recent decades. The exhibition, which includes more than thirty watercolors, drawings, prints, and oil paintings, will be on view in the State Street Gallery of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art from October 5, 2012, to January 6, 2013.

Works in the exhibition date from the late 1960s to the late 1990s, and are drawn from the Bill McClain Collection of Chicago Imagism, an exceptional private collection that was made available to MMoCA approximately three years ago. Lostutter shared the Imagists’ interests in a figurative art of vibrant color and graphic line based on personal fantasy.

In the early 1970s, a sojourn in Mexico and his love of nature led Robert Lostutter to seize upon a theme that came to define his mature style. A superb draftsman and watercolorist, he began making portraits of figures adorned with the plumage of tropical birds or the petals and leaves of orchids. Lostutter’s mythic creatures are both disturbing and radiantly beautiful, fusions of animal and human, nature and culture.

The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter is accompanied by a fully illustrated 60-page catalog, which is funded, in part, through a generous contribution from Mark and Judy Bednar.

Exhibition Sponsors

Generous support for The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter has been provided by Ben Marcus and Katie Dowling-Marcus; the Terry Family Foundation; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.  


October 5  •  5–9 pm 
MMoCA Nights / Celebration of The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter
The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter opens on October 5 in MMoCA’s State Street Gallery. This MMoCA Nights will celebrate the exhibition with a talk by the artist, live music from Clocks in Motion, hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar—plus, a Gallery Night book signing in the Museum Store. Free for all guests.

Friday, October 5 ∙ 6:30–7 pm
Gallery Talk: Robert Lostutter Discusses His Work
Robert Lostutter will offer a gallery talk on his work as part of the opening celebration for The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter. The artist has been a leading figure in Chicago’s visual art scene for more than thirty years, gaining special prominence for his finely rendered, visionary portraits of hybrid bird- and orchid-men.

Robert Lostutter studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was associated with the group of artists who became known as the Chicago Imagists. He is represented in numerous private and public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri; Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Milwaukee Art Museum; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; and Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; among others.

Saturday, October 13 · 1-1:30 pm
Drop-in Tour
Marie Wunsch discusses The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter during this free drop-in tour.

Sunday, October 14 · 1-2:30 pm
Kids' Art Adventures
Kids will create masks inspired by Robert Lostutter’s hybrid beings—just in time for Halloween. Kids’ Art Adventures invite families to make art together in MMoCA’s classroom following guided discussions of works on view in the museum’s galleries. Activities are designed for six- to ten-year-olds.

Thursday, October 25 ∙ 12:30–1 pm 
Gallery Talk: Fred Stonehouse on the Art of Robert Lostutter
Fred Stonehouse will discuss works on view in The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter, focusing on the artist’s sumptuous use of color, flawless craftsmanship, and fantastic imagery.

An assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department, Fred Stonehouse is nationally known for his finely crafted, highly symbolic paintings. His works are in many private and public collections, including the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Milwaukee Art Museum; San Jose Museum of Art, California; and Tacoma Art Museum, Washington.

Thursday, November 8 ∙ 12:30–1:15 pm 
Gallery Talk: Richard H. Axsom on The Hybrids of Robert Lostutter
MMoCA curator Richard H. Axsom will discuss the connection between mythological and religious “hybrid beings” and Robert Lostutter’s figures that combine human features with attributes of birds and orchids. Axsom will address the history and cultural significance of these creatures, and suggest connections between their meanings and Lostutter’s works.

Richard H. Axsom is curator at MMoCA and professor emeritus of art history, University of Michigan. In addition to his curatorial work, he has published extensively in the area of modern and contemporary prints, including a two-volume catalogue raisonné of Ellsworth Kelly’s prints.

This gallery talk is presented in conjunction with the Wisconsin Book Festival; for additional information, visit

Saturday, December 8 · 1-1:30 pm
Drop-in Tour
Cindy Koschmann discusses The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter during this free drop-in tour.


The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates The Singing Bird Room of Robert Lostutter with a richly illustrated 60-page catalog. A superb draftsman and watercolorist, the Chicago-based artist is renowned for his portraits of hybrid bird- and orchid-men. Through these mythic creatures, which are both stunning and disconcerting, the artist draws attention to the beauty of the natural world. With more than thirty full-color illustrations, an essay by MMoCA curator Richard H. Axsom, and a transcribed conversation with the artist, the catalog presents the artist’s history and insights, as well as many of his finest works.