Because they come along only once every four years, exhibitions that showcase works by the entire faculty of the UW-Madison art department are always an event. But the 2012 faculty art quadrennial offers new surroundings, new faces and new sensibilities as well.
Arcing through many of the old and new galleries at the Chazen Museum of Art, "Compendium 2012" will feature works by 34 current faculty and staff, and 12 emeritus faculty. Paintings, drawings, sculpture, graphics, ceramics, textiles, woodwork, metalwork, glass, prints and photographs, as well as performance, video and digital art are all part of the mix. Some of the works are from commissions by major museums around the country. Some were created expressly for this show.
Among the artists are four new faculty members: Leslie Smith III, Meg Mitchell, Sarah FitzSimons and Matthew Bakkom.
"It's a really nice coincidence that those people have arrived and are in the midst of their first year with us, and we have this chance to showcase their work," said Paul Sacaridiz, a member of the faculty committee that organized the show.
"Compendium 2012" comes at an exciting time for the UW-Madison art department, said department chairman Tom Loeser.
Along with the hiring of four professors, the opening three years ago of the Art Lofts building near the Kohl Center brought together under one roof studio spaces and offices formerly scattered throughout campus — and gave the department a more definitive public identity, he said.
Meanwhile, the Chazen's vast expansion opened last fall. "Compendium 2012" is the second large-scale exhibition in that renewed space — and will include works using technologies unheard of when the faculty-wide exhibition was first held in 1974.
"One of the ways to look at the show is to look at how it illustrates how the department has evolved and incorporated areas such as 4D that we didn't use to have," Loeser said. Today, "We're much more interdisciplinary. Even faculty who are, you might say, printmaking faculty, might have video in the show. It's harder to break the department specifically into this discipline and that discipline.
"That's not just our department — that's a national trend," he said. "But I do think many grad students especially come to our department because it's structured to give students an opportunity to work across areas very easily."
Loeser's own work in the show will include an "eclectic" selection of wood pieces, including a bench made from found objects that visitors will be able to sit on.
Faculty members themselves selected the works they would contribute to the exhibition. The show does not have a curator; most of the layout and design was done by Chazen exhibition designer Jerl Richmond.
Admission to the museum is free, and 40-minute gallery talks will be given by the artists starting Feb. 7.
Those talks give the public "a chance to come and sit near the work of an individual faculty," Sacaridiz said, "and then hear a casual lecture from the perspective of the person who made it."