In celebration of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s ten-year anniversary in its striking Cesar Pelli-designed building, MMoCA will present Taking Their Place: Recent Acquisitions in Context, on view September 12 through January 3. Drawn exclusively from the museum’s permanent collection,Taking Their Place highlights more than 50 works in various media that have entered MMoCA’s collection within the past decade, several of which are on display for the first time. By bringing together newer acquisitions with more familiar favorites, this exhibition illuminates the conceptual and formal connections between existing and newer works, and offers insight into how and why a museum builds its collection.
The museum’s permanent collection traces its origins to a major gift from Rudolph and Louise Langer in 1968. The Langers became active supporters of the museum in 1927 (then known as the Madison Art Association) when they moved to Madison from the East Coast. The Langers generously bequeathed approximately 1,200 artworks to the museum.
Through donations and museum purchases, the collection now includes over 5,500 drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, and multimedia works spanning the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Although acquired independently of one another and over an extended period of time, the works on view in this exhibition are grouped together according to themes and stylistic movements well represented in MMoCA’s collection, including contemporary photography, Pop, and Chicago Imagism.
In addition, Taking Their Place showcases MMoCA’s forward-looking mission to investigate the informational and aesthetic possibilities of digital, electronic, and moving-image art. Several works included in the exhibition speak to the museum’s expanded commitment to collect contemporary works of art employing digital technologies and time-based sequencing, such as Jennifer Steinkamp’s digital projection, Rapunzel 9. Shimmering and seductive, Rapunzel 9 blankets the vertical length of the gallery wall with swaying vines of wildflowers that appear to dematerialize the space of the gallery, transforming it into an illusionistic, enchanted landscape. For this work, the artist was inspired by the Grimm fairy tale about a woman so enraptured by the rapunzel plant, or rampion, growing in a witch’s garden that she gives up her unborn child in exchange for the flowering herb. The child, who the witch names Rapunzel and keeps locked away in a tall tower, eventually grows to be a beautiful maiden whose long braided hair facilitates her eventual escape. Steinkamp, who is known for helping bring digital art into the mainstream of contemporary art, uses computer animation software to create immersive installations that fuse beauty and rhythmic movement into hypnotic works of art.
Generous funding for Taking Their Place has been provided by the David and Paula Kraemer Fund; BioSentinel INC; Whyte Hirschbock Dudek SC: Gina and Michael Carter; JoAnne Robbins and David Falk; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.