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Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) Announces The Industrial Modern

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) presents The Industrial Modern, on view MAY 28–SEPTEMBER 4, 2011.

The Industrial Modern explores artists’ conflicted responses to industry, labor, and the urban environment from the middle of the nineteenth century to contemporary times. In doing so, the exhibition explores the tensions inherent in the “culture of progress.”

Starting in the eighteenth century, the enormous energy of the Industrial Revolution began to transform the physical, economic, and socio-political landscapes of both Europe and the United States. The changes—including urbanization, mechanization, and regimented labor—coincided with a growing interest among western artists in accurately representing the rhythms and realities of everyday life.

Focusing on workers and strikers, factories and machines, skyscrapers and city centers, bridges and railroads, docks and shipyards—the shapes of steel, steam, concrete, and human labor—artworks in The Industrial Modern explore scenes previously deemed unworthy of serious artistic representation. William Gropper, for example, a committed left-wing radical, infused his works with a socio-political message, championing the cause of the exploited worker and highlighting the social injustices characteristic of the modern industrial age. In contrast, Donna Dennis eschews reference to human presence, focusing instead on the dingy interior of a vacant subway station. Light from three stark bulbs illuminates the impressive vernacular architecture, while simultaneously calling attention to the emptiness of the cavernous space and hinting at themes of desolation and urban alienation.

The Industrial Modern also presents drawings, paintings, photographs, and prints by William Klein, Louis Lozowick, Samuel L. Margolies, Joseph Pennell, and Ben Shahn, among many others.

The Industrial Modern is organized by MMoCA’s curatorial associate Leah Kolb. Generous support for The Industrial Modern and the companion exhibition Picturing Technology has been provided by University Research Park, Inc.; the Madison Print Club; Potter Lawson, Inc.; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.

Image: Donna Dennis, Deep Station, View from the Track, 1987. Lithograph, 25¾ x 35¼ inches. Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Museum Purchase Fund.

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