Beta Space: Pae White

  • A long white cube gallery is bisected by a tall brightly colored and patterned tapestry that snakes through the space, preventing visibility from one side to the other. Adjacent to it, a long vitrine is filled with a gridded army of small bulbous statues.

    Installation view of Beta Space: Pae White, San José Museum of Art, California, 2019. Photos by JKA Photography.

  • A brightly colored and abstractly patterned tapestry hangs from a gallery ceiling. It is so large that it barely fits in the space. Its serpentine shape divides the white room into three smaller nooks. Light passes underneath it and a confetti-like mobile is in the distance.
  • A winding textile covered in abstract floral patterns hovers above the ground of a brightly lit gallery, extending two-thirds of the height and the full length of the space. It curves around two white columns that punctuate the space. A hanging mobile is in the distance.
  • Two nearly identical large monochrome white canvasses hang side-by-side on a gallery wall. Their textured surfaces are filled with shapes and curving lines. The texture is exaggerated by faint patches of pastel colors that become more saturated around the edges of some of the shapes.
  • A brightly colored mobile made up of hundreds of small hanging disks high in a white gallery. Its shadows and reflections on the adjacent wall and ceiling double its size. Next to it hang 3 semi-circular screened cubicles made of brightly colored and patterned bold fabric panels.

    Installation view of Beta Space: Pae White, San José Museum of Art, California, 2019. Photos by JKA Photography.

  • A serpentine shaped patterned screen snakes through a gallery space, hovering just above the ground and stopping only a few feet from the ceiling. The angle of the photo emphasizes its monumentality while also revealing its detailed decorative panels in golds, reds, and metallic greens.
  • An array of whimsical brightly colored toy figurines are haphazardly arranged on a mirrored surface. Featuring colorful bobbles, gold painted birds, and rainbow fans, the toys range in size but none fills more than half the height of the glass box that contains them.
  • A large screen of abstractly patterned pastel colored panels curves through a white cube gallery and snakes around a white column at its center. In front of it, a square pedestal supports a glass vitrine containing three discrete objects.
  • A long horizontal rectangular black canvas is divided into four discrete panels by black frames. The largely monochrome work is peppered with a sparse array of colored rectangles that seem to fall across it like confetti.

    Installation view of Beta Space: Pae White, San José Museum of Art, California, 2019. Photos by JKA Photography.

  • A large serpentine-shaped screen divides a gallery space into a series of curving nooks that invite close examination of its abstractly patterned bold colored panels. In the foreground, a mobile of scattered confetti-like disks matches its shimmering color scheme.

    The work of internationally renowned artist Pae White transcends nearly all traditional boundaries—between art and design, craft and fine art, architecture and installation, theory and practice. Her probing curiosity with the world manifests in her transformation of ordinary objects and phenomena—chandeliers, clocks, popcorn, tapestries, birdsongs, fog, smoke—into exhilarating experiences that defy logic yet remain oddly familiar. Always kinaesthetic—as much a bodily as visual experience that plays with the senses—her work is as alluring as it is ambiguous, suggesting that things may not be as they may seem. The handmade nature of her work, combined with sophisticated technologies and inventive processes, allow for a high degree of improvisation.

    In celebration of SJMA’s 50th anniversary, White presents a compendium of new works and recent installations for the sixth iteration of the Museum’s exhibition series “Beta Space.” White’s peripatetic practice across various media and disciplines captures the spirit of this series: her work brims with artistic risk taking and experimentation, reflecting the wildly creative and innovative ethos of Silicon Valley.

    Beta Space: Pae White features newly made artworks that further White’s interest in shifting our associations and perceptions of everyday objects, materials, and phenomena. In addition, the exhibition features two monumental installations that upend traditional ideas regarding architecture, museum display practices, fine art, and craft. foreverago (2017) is the artist’s largest tapestry to date, at 127 feet long. Shown in the United States for the first time, it will meander through the gallery, creating a sinuous wall-like structure that presents both the front and back of the weaving. Revolutionizing the genre of tapestry for the 21st century, White relied on the help of skilled artisans while employing advanced digital imaging techniques to weave together colorful cotton, cashmere, and metallic threads, and used custom software that randomizes distribution patterns to produce her seemingly chaotic scene. Part of the artist’s ongoing series “Bugz + Drugs,” foreverago explodes with a cacophony of insects—ladybugs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and crickets—descending on plants known for their psychoactive, calming effects: mushrooms, poppies, and cannabis. Renderings of antique Japanese kimono fabric samples and Byzantine icons further enhances an already rich and visually abundant composition.

    In her intuitive approach to materials and images, White maintains a critical eye on popular manifestations and wildly kitsch derivatives of high modernist ideals. In AGAMEMNOMICS (2013), she presents a massive assemblage of chess pieces of her own device. While scouring the design collections of the MAK Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, the artist encountered a trove of forgotten toys made by an unknown Viennese designer in the 1920s. From this group she fashioned a chess set and sent images of nine objects to artisans and fabricators in China, Ethiopia, Germany, Lithuania, and Mexico, as well as to artists working in the Los Angeles area. Each workshop rendered interpretations of these objects in materials of their own specialty: glass, wood, clay, porcelain, plastic, and rubber. Leaving her project to chance and spontaneity, White rescued these toys from the confines of the design archive and cast them back into realms of the imagination and play.


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    Beta Space: Pae White is supported by the SJMA Exhibitions Fund with generous contributions from the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation, Doris and Alan Burgess, Theres and Dennis Rohan, Tad Freese and Brook Hartzell, and Mary Mocas and Marv Tseu. Additional support is provided by Hildy Shandell Beville and Ross Harwood Beville; 1301PE, Los Angeles; and Roxanne Fleming and David Soward. In-kind support is provided by Alaska Airlines, the exclusive and official airline partner of the San José Museum of Art.

    Programs at SJMA are made possible by generous support from the Museum's Board of Trustees, a Cultural Affairs Grant from the City of San José, the Lipman Family Foundation, Yvonne and Mike Nevens, Facebook Art Department, the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Yellow Chair Foundation, the SJMA Director's Council and Council of 100, the SJMA Endowment Fund established by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and The William Randolph Hearst Foundation.​

    City of San José