MMoCA presents "Home": An Exhibition that explores the tenuous and elusive concept of home
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MMoCA presents "Home": An Exhibition that explores the tenuous and elusive concept of home
Mohammed Omar Khalil, Cinnamon, 1979. Intaglio, 7 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches. Gift of Warrington Colescott and Frances Myers, Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

MADISON, WI.- Madison Museum of Contemporary Art presents Home, a multi-media exhibition that creates conversations around concepts often tied to the sense of home—memory, comfort, loss, displacement, and reclamation. Sometimes described as a state of mind, home occupies both a physical and emotional space. Each artist in the exhibition examines how the concept of home can alternate based on an individual’s perception, simultaneously serving as a site of renewal or rejection, longing or resistance.

Whether stemming from self-selected removal or forced exile, each artist grapples with the impact of displacement and utilizes their work to provide a space of meditation on the experience. Drawing its title from Warsan Shire’s poem Home, which will be shared in the space, the exhibition combines written and visual art.

Recalling letters to home and quiet musings in a private diary, the play between text and image is integral to the process of many of the featured artists. A central example is Ben Shahn’s portfolio For the Sake of a Single Verse (1968), inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s only novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910). Shahn created the portfolio 40 years after reading Rilke’s book. Combining the story of a young man left without a home due to the early death of his parents and written in the format of a journal, the work speaks to the pursuit of artistic creation that stems from his reflections of the past as well as his engagement with the world he sees around him.

Mona Hatoum’s Measures of Distance (1988), first shown at MMoCA in 1989, overlays script from letters the artist’s mother wrote to her on filmed video footage. Born to Palestinian parents living in exile in Lebanon, Hatoum also became an exile when war broke out in Lebanon while she was visiting London. She could not return, leaving her communications with her family limited to the intermittent exchange of letters. Enmeshed in loss, loneliness, and longing, the work becomes a visual celebration of the reuniting of mother and daughter, the frankness of their conversations, and the intimacy of their relationship.

Also included are loaned works from regional artists Tom Jones and Pao Houa Her. From Jones’ Strong Unrelenting Spirits series, Cameryn Collins (2021) combines photography and beadwork as a meditation on Ho-Chunk identity and geographic place. Her’s untitled (Portrait) (2017) from the series After the Fall of Hmong Teb Chaw combines imagined homelands and fabricated realities with examinations of Hmong-American history and lived experience. Both Jones and Her reference studio portraiture in explorations of identity and the assertion of self, family, and home.

The inspiration for the exhibition came together through MMoCA’s recent acceptance of a work by Marc Chagall into its collection. An extraordinary artist who created fantastical worlds that drew on his youth in Vitebsk (in present-day Belarus) and his later life in France, Chagall was also acutely aware of the traumas of displacement. Unable to return to Vitebsk and at one point a refugee in the United States, Chagall worked with a group of artists to establish a portfolio of prints that still serves to raise funds for individuals displaced by humanitarian crises. The work on view, Chrysanthemums (1949), was created shortly after his return to Paris from New York. When seen through the lens of his personal history, the fresh cut garden flowers on the table with a ghostly form of two women floating in the background suddenly shifts to reveal a meditation on what makes and creates a sense of home—the people it is shared with and small moments of beauty.

Artists featured in Home include Lida Abdul, Marc Chagall, Mona Hatoum, Pao Houa Her, Bessie Scottie Iquginnaaq, Tom Jones, Mohammed Omar Khalil, Louise Nevelson, Milton Resnick, Ben Shahn, and Warsan Shire.

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