‘Full Circle: Acquisitions and Exhibitions’ displays artwork from the past 30 years, encompasses the museum’s growth



Rob and Christian Clayton, Tim House (In Green Pastures), 2001. Mixed media on wood panel with electrical and sound. 3D Size: 129.25 x 60.25 x 71.5 in. Gift of Howard and Judith Tullman. Collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Hailey Griffin, Arts Editor

The growth that the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has experienced in the past 30 years takes shape in the form of “Full Circle: Acquisitions and Exhibitions,” which can be viewed at https://www.mmoca.org/art/full-circle-acquisitions-and-exhibitions.

Curator of the Collection Mel Becker Solomon worked with Director Emeritus Steven Fleischman to curate Fleischman’s final show, “Full Circle: Acquisitions and Exhibitions.”

“So, our director retired last May, and the last show he proposed was something from our permanent collection that would look to our collection over the last 30 years,” said Becker Solomon.

While choosing pieces for “Full Circle: Acquisitions and Exhibitions,” Fleischman aimed to remain mindful of the museum’s growth during his tenure and the way that the museum has connected with and supported different artists.

“While he certainly had favorites, it was very much a reflection of how we’ve grown and how we’ve been a part of the community, supported and helped these artists along the way over the past 30 years,” said Becker Solomon.

In preparation for the exhibition, Becker Solomon called different artists who had work featured in the museum’s permanent collection. Some of the stories and fond memories that Becker Solomon gathered from the artists are exemplified through the short video called “(Re)Collections” that accompanies the exhibition online. “I wanted the artists’ voices to be in the gallery. I wanted the art to speak,” said Becker Solomon.

Some of the pieces displayed in the exhibition include “Texas Instruments” by Donald Lipski, “Krasavica” by Ursula von Rydingsvard, “Tin House (In Green Pastures)” by Rob and Christian Clayton, and “Thunder Bay II” by Truman Lowe, to name a few. Another piece, “Dining Out,” by Jacob Lawrence, was especially notable for Becker Solomon.

While handling “Dining Out,” Becker Solomon not only discovered that Lawrence was a student when he made it but also that he had repurposed the back of the piece to create a never-before-seen design. “I wrote on the label, I was like, ‘Hey, in preparation for this exhibition, we reframed this work, and there was a drawing on the back. Here’s what it looks like,’ you know?” said Becker Solomon.

Lawrence’s work and the rest of the work within the exhibition are perfect examples of what it means for an artist’s voice to be heard, for an artist’s story to be told.

These stories are what make both “Full Circle: Acquisitions and Exhibitions” and art exhibitions in general so important. “As curators at the museum, we tell stories. So, telling more stories and telling stories you may not have heard before make those connections in our community and make people feel like this is a space for them,” said Becker Solomon.

When Becker Solomon first started planning the exhibition with Fleischman, she had not anticipated that in less than a year, she’d no longer be able to provide that space to tell those stories in person. Due to the pandemic, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art had to close in March last year. However, they’ve been able to make galleries like “Full Circle: Acquisitions and Exhibitions” accessible online.

“Thinking about how to curate a show and make it work virtually, as well, has been interesting,” said Becker Solomon. Since the museum closed to the public, Becker Solomon has had to focus on new ways to navigate exhibitions.

Although she may have had to adapt to a different way to display the “Full Circle: Acquisitions and Exhibitions” exhibition, Becker Solomon’s passion for telling artists’ stories remains the same.

“I know how it can connect people. I know how it can illuminate stories that might not otherwise have been told, and help people grow and experience something that they wouldn’t get from their own bubble, from their own sphere or their own slice of life,” said Becker Solomon.