Roger Brown, Forest Fire, 1976
To celebrate Mark and Judy Bednar’s transformative gift of Chicago Imagist art from their collection to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, MMoCA will bring together the gift in the museum’s main galleries. Uncommon Accumulation will showcase works that have already been gifted to the museum alongside the promised gifts that have been collected by the Bednars over the past 45 years. This gift of nearly 100 works of art complements the museum’s existing collection of Chicago Imagism through its inclusion of artworks produced very early in the careers of several of the artists. Formative works by Roger Brown, Robert Lostutter, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Ed Paschke, Christina Ramberg, Barbara Rossi, Karl Wirsum, and Ray Yoshida from the 1960s and 70s—a period when some of the Imagists were still in graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)—are part of this extraordinary gift. These new additions uphold MMoCA as having one of the largest, and now one of the most comprehensive, collections of Chicago Imagism.
The Chicago Imagists were a group of figurative artists who emerged in Chicago in the mid-1960s. Using vibrant color and bold lines, they depicted the human body as grossly distorted and highly stylized. As students of SAIC, the Imagists passed by iconic paintings and the extraordinary collection of Surrealism on display at the Art Institute on their way to classes.
Although influenced by the encyclopedic collection of the museum, the Imagists were equally inspired by ethnographic collections at the Field Museum, self-taught artists, comic books, storefront window displays, and advertisements in magazines.
The Bednars’ gift also reveals the profound friendships the couple has developed with the artists over the years. From dinners at their home to trips to the Metropolitan Opera, the support and admiration bestowed upon the artists is heartwarming and reciprocated. These sincere friendships are revealed in some of the inscriptions on the works of art—below one drawing reads “Happy Birthday Judy / From Your Friend / Robert Lostutter.”
To support continued research and the accessibility of these works, the Bednars have also funded the museum’s collection database and website redesign. While strengthening the museum’s existing collection of Chicago Imagism, these generous gifts also support the museum’s core mission of increasing education and inspiration through the arts.