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Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art Presents USA Today Exhibition
Dan Peterman, Thank You for Your Patronage: Chairs from Street Carts, 1989. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, gift of Stenn Family in Memory of David C. Ruttenberg. © 1989 Dan Peterman.

CHICAGO.- USA Today is an exhibition of works from the MCA’s collection, made primarily in the 1980s and 90s that reveals the continuing resonance and complexity of topics spanning freedom of expression, militarism, the pursuit of social justice, the dynamics of race, and the human and economic consequences of globalization as defining elements in our society today. The exhibition includes works in a variety of media from painting, sculpture, photography, installation, and video to artists’ books and presents the work of artists based locally, nationally, and internationally. USA Today, on view from November 8, 2008, to March 15, 2009, also serves as a companion to the social and political themes found in the Jenny Holzer: PROTECT PROTECT exhibition.

Included in the USA Today exhibition is Adrian Piper’s video installation, Cornered, a work that draws the viewer in with Piper’s calmly-delivered monologue on her own racial identity and leaves the viewer with the potent question, “what are you going to do with this information?” Several drawings from Jim Shaw’s Aestheticized Disaster series display images of conflict and mass destruction. Taken from photographs in newspapers or magazines, the careful reconstitutions of these images in graphite neutralize the violence or chaos of people’s lives. Howardena Pindell’s collage Rambo Real Estate: Homelessness poignantly comments on social and economic challenges that are as significant today as in 1987, when the work was made.

Cady Noland’s Chainsaw Cut Cowboy Head (1990) speaks to American archetypes and notions of violence, as received through the media. Noland began creating freestanding assemblages in the mid-1980s. They generally consist of a silk-screened image from a film or the media on an aluminum panel, leaning against the wall or propped on a stand, as in the image of a grinning cowboy whose head is mutilated with holes and gashes.

Since the early 1980s, Louise Lawler has posed questions about the social function of art in her photographs, installations, and provocative role-playing performances. Between Reagan and Bush consists of two juxtaposed parts. One is Lawler’s photograph of Jeff Koons works that are in storage. The other is a painted wall panel of a menu taken from The Silver Palate Cookbook, a contemporary guide to entertaining geared toward elite consumers. The title of the work identifies the policies of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush as courses in a meal for upper-class consumption. Lawler uses Koons’ work to represent what she sees as the gluttony of both elitist taste and politics.

The exhibition also includes work by Dennis Adams, Chris Burden, Andreas Gursky, Robert Heinecken, Alfredo Jaar, Gabriel Kuri, Dan Peterman, Michel Rovner, and Greg Stimac, among others. Several groupings of artists’ books and archival materials from the MCA’s extensive collection complete the presentation including works by Joseph Beuys, Jenny Holzer, Yoko Ono, and Martha Rosler.

USA Today is co-curated by Elizabeth Smith, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs at MCA, and Tricia Van Eck, Curatorial Coordinator and Curator of Artists’ Books.

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