Our whole, unruly selves

Steffani Jemison, Similitude, 2019. HD video with sound. Running time: 35 minutes, 42 seconds. Purchased with funds provided by the Acquisitions Committee. 2020.06. 

Laura Aguilar, Stillness #24, 1999. Gelatin silver print, Edition 7/10, 9 x 12 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Lipman Acquisition Fund. 2020.10.02. Image courtesy of The Laura Aguilar Trust of 2016. 

Felipe Baeza, I have sprouted against unnatural boundaries, 2018. Graphite, acrylic, interference powder, cut paper, egg tempera, and flashe on paper, 15 × 11 ½ inches. © Felipe Baeza. Courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

Friday, November 19, 2021Sunday, June 26, 2022
Organized by Lauren Schell Dickens, senior curator.

Our whole, unruly selves celebrates the boundlessness of human beings through an exploration of artistic figuration. The human form has inspired artists throughout history, and the desire to represent and respond to the nuanced experience of existing within a specific body continues to drive new visual languages and approaches. While the inclusion of underrepresented bodies has been a critical step in diversifying museum walls and collections, many artists who experience oppression and erasure—whether due to race, sexual orientation, disability, or immigration status—resist or recast the burden of representation, as the pressures of both hypervisibility and invisibility can eclipse the complexity of lived experience.

Centering artists of color as well as queer, immigrant, disabled, and undocumented artists, Our whole, unruly selves features over 60 works from the 1960s to the present, largely drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection. Demonstrating an alignment with philosopher and poet Fred Moten’s “consent not to be a single being,” the artists on view—including Laura Aguilar, Benny Andrews, Felipe Baeza, Rina Banerjee, Huma Bhabha, Woody De Othello, Carlee Fernandez, Genevieve Gaignard, Tim Hawkinson, Kenyatta A.C. Hinckle, Oliver Lee Jackson, Steffani Jemison, Hayv Kahraman, Wardell Milan, Senga Nengudi, Kambui Olujimi, Christina Quarles, Miljohn Ruperto, Alison Saar, Aislinn Thomas, Axis Dance Company, and many others—insistently bring their whole selves, uncontainable and irreducible. Each of their artworks embodies strategies for a complex figuration, highlighting forms of resistance, flexibility, openness, and an embrace of opacity.


Our whole, unruly selves is supported by the SJMA Exhibitions Fund, with a generous contribution from Diane Jonte-Pace in memory of David Pace.  

Operations and programs at the San José Museum of Art 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, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation, Yvonne and Mike Nevens, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Yellow Chair Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the SJMA Director's Council and Council of 100, the San José Museum of Art Endowment Fund established by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and The William Randolph Hearst Foundation. 

Logos of the City of San José and the David Lucile and Packard Foundation


Fall Arts Guide 2021, Metroactive
August 25, 2021


Bay Area art spaces back on feet for fall, focusing on the traditionally underrepresented, San Francisco Chronicle Datebook
September 8, 2021