Press Releases

Date of Release: 
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Contact Info: 

Rick Axsom, Curator of Collections
608.257.0158 x 249 or

Katie Kazan, Director of Public Information
608.257.0158 x 237 or

High-resolution images available at

From Nature Realist Works in MMoCA's Permanent Collection

From Nature
Realist Works in MMoCA's Permanent Collection

July 25, 2009–August 15, 2010
MADISON, WI – From Nature: Realist Works in MMoCA's Permanent Collection, which opens at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on July 25, 2009, is the last in a three-part series of exhibitions that examines the major styles of modernism. The exhibition is curated by the museum's curator of collections, Rick Axsom.
Abstract and expressionist styles, previously surveyed in the series, have little precedent in western art. A modern realist style, however, has evolved as a series of personal elaborations on the Renaissance tradition. In Italy and the Netherlands, Renaissance artists of the fifteenth century conceived the work of art as a calculated imitation of visual appearances. Optical realism, a radical departure from the styles of medieval art, came to define the visual arts for nearly five centuries. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, optical realism began to lose its authority. Modernist concepts soon challenged and rejected Renaissance naturalism in favor of more individualized styles that allowed for non-realistic elements of color and form.
Although based upon perceptual observations of the world, with the artist “working from nature,” modernist realism still distinguishes itself from past practice. The artist may, for example, simplify detail, orchestrate irrational juxtapositions to create magic realism, or derive works from photographs to affect a photorealist style. 
Major artists in the history of modern art have used realism as a basis for their work. Several of these, including Thomas Hart Benton, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Henri Matisse, and Andrew Wyeth, are represented in this exhibition.
Exhibitions in MMoCA's Henry Street Gallery are generously funded through an endowment established by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.


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