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Descending the Staircase

Dec 16, 2023 - Aug 25, 2024

About the Exhibition

Descending the Staircase considers novel artistic approaches to representing the human body. Spread across two floors of the museum, the exhibition presents figures of all kinds, from the fragmented, absurd, and surreal to the curated, self-aware, and media savvy. Puppets, masks, and automatons merge bodies with objects, juxtaposing the animate and inanimate, while abstract sculptures evoke the human form through soft and fleshy materials such as nylon, wax, hair, and latex. Elsewhere, artists deploy the living body as a medium, setting it in motion with performance and gesture. Together, these artworks delve into fundamental questions about the human body in the contemporary world, including its relationship to labor and machines, its presentation in advertising and social media, and its role within the everyday domestic sphere.

Drawn primarily from the MCA’s permanent collection, this immersive exhibition brings together new works and old favorites, revealing ongoing conversations among past and present artists. This presentation celebrates the MCA’s participation in those conversations, collecting work and supporting contemporary artists for more than 50 years.

Descending the Staircase is part of an ongoing exhibition series that highlights key artists represented in the MCA’s collection. The exhibition is curated by Jadine Collingwood, Associate Curator, and Jack Schneider, Assistant Curator. It is presented in the Stone Family Gallery, the Carol and Douglas Cohen Gallery, the Ed and Jackie Rabin Gallery, and the Dr. Paul and Dorie Sternberg Family Gallery on the museum’s third and fourth floors.

Installation Images

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Lead support is provided by the Pritzker Traubert Collection Exhibition Fund, Cari and Michael Sacks, and Zell Family Foundation.