Indestructible Wonder

Thursday, August 18, 2016Sunday, January 29, 2017

Diana Thater
Untitled (Butterfly Videowall #2), 2008 (detail)
Five flat screen LCD monitors, Blu-ray player, Blu-ray disc, distribution amplifier, two fluorescent light fixtures, and Lee filters
Dimensions variable
Museum purchase with funds from the Acquisitions Committee and the Lipman Family Foundation

Chris Jordan
Midway, CF000668, 2009
Inkjet print
16 ¾ × 20 ¾ inches
Gift of the Lipman Family Foundation

Gail Wight
Center of Gravity, 2008
Digital pigment prints on kozo washi; Plexiglas, lights, motion sensors, audio
96 × 5 × 5 inches
Gift of the Lipman Family Foundation and Ron Casentini


Chester Arnold
Entropic Landscape, 1999
Oil on canvas
72 × 94 inches
Gift of Dick and cb Watts

Ruth Asawa
Untitled, ca. late 1960s
Bronze wire
64 × 64 × 15 inches
Museum purchase with funds contributed by Tom and Polly Bredt, Elaine and Rex Cardinale, and Mary Mocas

Lisa Adams
Given That All Things Are Equal, 2009
Oil on panel
60 × 144 inches
Gift of Merry Karnowsky and James Panozzo

Richard Misrach
Desert Fire #248, from the series “Canto: The Fires,” 1985
Color coupler print
40 × 50 inches
Gift of Peter and Beverly Lipman

The precarious relationship between nature and humanity is the subject of this exhibition, drawn from SJMA’s permanent collection. For over two generations since Rachel Carson’s landmark book Silent Spring (1962) triggered the modern environmentalist movement, contemporary artists have been similarly moved by a primal reverence for nature and thus also prompted to raise questions about our rampant impact on the earth’s fragile ecosystems. For example, Anne Appleby uses the spare language of minimalism to record the subtle beauty of nature in Sage (1993), in which each monochromatic panel (built up of translucent layers of color) relates to the annual life cycle of a sage plant—and to Appleby’s observant, poetic take on the perennial succession of life, death, and renewal.

Photographer Edward Burtynsky says, “while trying to accomodate the growing needs of an expanding, and very thirsty civilization, we are reshaping the Earth in colossal ways.” His overriding interest in the environment has led to long-term photographic essays on, for example, oil, mining, quarries, and water. In Oil Fields #19a, Belridge, California (2003–2005) and Oil Fields #19b, Belridge, California (2003–2005), he shows the interface of industry and central California’s landscape, where acres of oil rigs methodically hammer the ground. His pictures are stark and harrowing, yet exquisitely detailed and surprisingly beautiful.

On view for the first time in Indestructible Wonder is the important recent acquisition Untitled (Butterfly Videowall #2) (2008), a video installation by Diana Thater. Thater filmed monarch butterflies as they rested on the ground at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico, where millions of monarchs hibernate after their long migration from Canada. Due, in part, to the lack of foliage in which the butterflies normally take refuge, their only option was to gather together on the forest floor—an extremely vulnerable position. By placing upturned monitors on the gallery floor, Thater created a meditative experience through which to consider the lives of other creatures who share this planet.

Also included in Indestructible Wonder are artworks by Lisa Adams, Chester Arnold, Ruth Asawa, Sandow Birk, Val Britton, Chris Jordan, Amy Kaufman, Michael Light, Danae Mattes, Richard Misrach, Nathan Redwood, Sam Richardson, Alyson Shotz, Kathryn Spence, Kirsten Stolle, and Gail Wight. Oakland artist Evan Holm will also create a new installation using water, manzanita branches, duckweed, and tape cassettes, commissioned by SJMA for this occasion.


Sponsored by Doris and Alan Burgess and supported by a gift from Megan Hayes and Reed Zars, in memory of Janet Gray and Kenneth Hayes.



Man vs. Nature: 'Indestructible Wonder,' Metro Silicon Valley (Metroactive)
August 24, 2016

Indestructible Wonders @ San Jose Museum of Art, Squarecylinder
December 20, 2018