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Permanently MAD: Revealing the Collection

Museum of Arts and Design Presents 150 Major Works from Collection Surveying More Than 50 Years of Art, Craft and Design

"Permanently MAD: Revealing the Collection" Opens at Museum’s New Home in September 2008

New York, NY (September 18, 2008)

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) inaugurates the Collections Gallery of its new home at Columbus Circle with an exhibition of 150 of the most significant works from its permanent holdings, many of which have never been seen before. Opening September 27, Permanently MAD: Revealing the Collection features the work of groundbreaking artists and designers from the 1950s through the present day, including Jack Lenor Larson, Wendell Castle, Louise Bourgeois, Peter Voulkos, George Segal, Cindy Sherman and Betty Woodman, among many others. The exhibition traces the phenomenal rise of the studio craft tradition in America following World War II, and its evolution into what has become today a dynamic synthesis of art, craft and design in the global arena.

As the first in an ongoing series of thematic explorations of MAD’s collection, Permanently MAD marks the first time in the Museum’s 52-year history that its internationally renowned collection is presented in dedicated gallery spaces, which occupy an entire floor of the new building by Allied Works Architecture. In addition, visitors have access to the Museum’s entire collection of 2,000 objects through exciting interactives located at terminals throughout the gallery. These interactives give visitors the opportunity to learn more about the objects, materials, and techniques presented in the galleries.

Holly Hotchner, the Nanette L. Laitman Director of MAD, said, “It is gratifying to present the Museum’s collection for the enjoyment of our visitors for the first time in our history. MAD was the first collecting institution focused entirely on studio craft, and has been a leader in the documentation of this aspect of twentieth-century art. Today the Museum occupies an important place in the cultural world as it continues to expand its collections in all of the related fields—art, design, fashion, architecture—where the values of traditional craftsmanship are of critical importance.” Organized thematically, Permanently MAD breaks with traditional installation methods that present works chronologically, geographically or by media, to instead offer visually stimulating comparison among works that share a common concept. The works on view are grouped into three thematic sections that introduce the viewer to different ways of approaching contemporary art: “Description” explores the work’s visual language or aesthetics; “Intention” shows the ways in which artists express their inner thoughts and feelings; and “Reflection” looks at the political, social and geographical context in which the work was created.

Chief Curator David Revere McFadden stated, “We believe that our visitors will be astonished and delighted to see such an exceptional range of creativity in this inaugural exhibition. The diversity of approaches to design and fabrication in the fields of ceramics, glass, metalwork, wood and furniture, textiles and fibers is striking, and a testament to the limitless potential of materials and techniques as used by creative and innovative artists.”

Description: Seeing the Object is an introductory section that encourages viewers to appreciate the visual language of an object through examination of form, color and pattern. For example, the pure form of a simple wheel-thrown ceramic vessel by Geert Lap is defined by the centrifugal force of the turning wheel, while the coil-built clay sculptures of artist Eva Hild take more varied shapes. Vittorio Zecchin’s blown-glass vessels are masterpieces of essential form, while Paul Cocksedge uses the blowing process to make liquid vinyl into organic lighting fixtures. Color and texture are sometimes applied to the surfaces, as in Robyn Horn and Jack Slentz’s powerfully cut and charred Flintsone Mudder, and sometimes inherent in the material as seen in Brad Sells’s use of the natural curves of wood used to create his undulating vessels.

Intention: The Artist Speaks reveals the diverse ways that artists communicate their inner emotions, their world view and their imaginative visions. Featured in this section are groups of objects related by “Wit and Humor” and “Dreams and Memories,” including works by Faith Ringgold, Robert Arneson and Grayson Perry. Groups of objects illustrate ways in which artists share their idiosyncratic wit and humor, or engage the viewer in their own poetic dreams.

Reflection: Objects in Context explores how works can reflect the social, political and historical landscapes in which they were created and collected. Artists such as Consuelo Jimenez Underwood often make lively and provocative commentaries on political issues, social conditions and pop culture. Others, such as Myra Mimlitsch Grey and Cindy Sherman, are inspired by the landscapes around them, or reinterpret traditional historic forms in transformative ways.

Permanently MAD also includes a special section titled Origins, which pays homage to the artists that created America’s studio craft movement, such as Sam Maloof, Peter Voulkos, Harvey Littleton, Claire Zeisler, Lenore Tawney, Jack Lenor Larsen, Dorothy Liebes and George Nakashima. These pioneers have inspired later generations of artists, and established the foundation for an artistic vision that today seamlessly merges art, craft and design.

Jennifer Scanlan, associate curator, said, “Permanently MAD demonstrates the revolutionary artwork that has been created in craft media since the Museum’s inception. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see works by the groundbreaking artists who founded the craft movement, as well as by contemporary artists who are expanding the boundaries of craft in new directions.”

The Collections Gallery is enhanced by three groundbreaking interpretive tools, designed by Pentagram, which allow visitors to explore the collections digitally in three different ways. An interactive touch screen in the gallery allows visitors to explore a selection of works on view in greater depth, showing video clips of various techniques used for the work on view, as well as artist interviews, images of other works by the same artist, and works by others of a similar period. At the Collections Research Station, visitors may learn more about MAD’s entire collection through the Museum’s online database, which documents all of the artists and works in MAD’s permanent holdings. Finally, near the elevators on the collection floor, a large plasma screen allows visitors to explore the collection with an innovative and completely interactive approach.

Since its founding in 1956, MAD has cultivated an internationally renowned collection of 2,000 objects, including ceramics, glass, metal, wood, fiber, and mixed media works. The core of the collection chronicles the origins and growth of the American studio craft movement, with works by major figures that shaped the history of the field from the 1950s through the 1980s. These artists include ceramists Peter Voulkos and Robert Arneson; fiber and textile artists Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney and Jack Lenor Larsen; early pioneers in the studio glass movement Harvey Littleton and Dale Chihuly; and such noteworthy furniture makers as Sam Maloof, Wendell Castle and Wharton Esherick.

Acquisitions from the past decade reveal the way in which traditional studio craft has joined forces with the worlds of art and design to create a new hybrid art form that challenges traditional boundaries and hierarchies between art, craft and design. At the same time, the collections continue to highlight excellence in concept and execution, celebrating the highest criteria of craftsmanship. Each year, the Museum continues to add to the collection with one-of-a-kind works, limited editions, and models and prototypes that document the creative processes seen in traditional craft media as well as in mixed media, rapid prototyping and computer-aided design.

MAD's public programs connect visitors with working artists, and act as the bridge between exhibitions and their broader historical and social contexts, contemporary issues of sustainability and design, and new developments in technique and materials. Programs include artists’ demonstrations in the Museum’s unique open studios, as well as performances, workshops and lectures in the Museum’s new galleries, education center, and theater. Hands-on opportunities for visitors of all ages are offered each Sunday, as well as daily exhibition tours and open studio demonstrations. Programs delve into aspects of the permanent collection and developments in design and architecture, and studios will feature artists whose work is on exhibition in the galleries.

Accompanying the inaugural exhibition of the permanent collection is a fully illustrated catalogue of highlights, including approximately 200 of the most important and memorable works from the collection. Each object is illustrated and accompanied by a curatorial statement about the significance of the artist or work and, in most instances, statements from the artists. This publication is especially useful for first-time museum visitors and for students, collectors and anyone with an interest in craft, art and design.

The exhibition has been organized by David Revere McFadden, chief curator, and Jennifer Scanlan, associate curator, with assistant curator Laura Stern. The installation has been created by Dorothy Twining Globus, curator of exhibitions, working with architect Todd Zwigard.

Permanently MAD: Revealing the Collection is made possible in part through the generosity of the Collectors Circle, one of the Museum’s leadership support groups.

The Museum of Arts and Design explores how craft, art, and design intersect in the visual arts today. The Museum focuses on contemporary creativity and the ways in which artists and designers from around the world transform materials through processes ranging from the handmade to cutting-edge technologies. The exhibition program explores and illuminates issues and ideas, highlights creativity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the limitless potential of materials and techniques when used by creative and innovative artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and focuses on art, craft, and design from 1945 to the present day.

For more information about the Museum of Arts and Design, visit

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