Jump to content

The Center Is Anywhere: Chicago-Based Artists from the MCA Collection


Tony Tasset, Button Progression, 1986. Leather cushions and wood; installed: 22 x 196 x 19 in. (55.9 x 497.8 x 48.3 cm). Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Thea Westreich, 1991.102.a–c. © 1986 Tony Tasset

Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Balsero, 1994. Inflatable raft and inner tubes, marine vinyl, aircraft cable, and color video installation; overall dimensions variable. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, gift of Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, 1996.1

Photo © MCA Chicago


The mid-1980s was an exciting time in the art world, particularly in Chicago. Members of a new generation of artists, born in the late 1950s and 1960s, were beginning their art careers in a climate of extreme optimism, and for the first time in Chicago’s history, with a myriad of opportunities to exhibit their work. The group was bound by friendships as well as a common conceptual aesthetic. This aesthetic built on conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s which valued the idea, rather than the object, and blurred the boundaries between various artistic mediums.

This exhibition, drawn chiefly from the MCA Collection, features this extraordinary group of artists. This group of works forms one of the strengths of the MCA’s holdings, and was recently augmented by a significant gift from Susan and Lewis Manilow. Many of these artists have gone on to national and international careers. Many have chosen to stay in Chicago, and a majority teach at area art schools and universities—a development unprecedented in this city, which had historically experienced an “artist drain” to New York. Most of the artists are represented with pieces from early in their careers along with more recent works.

The exhibition is curated by Curator Lynne Warren.