Message from the Director

S. Sayre Batton
Oshman Executive Director

Happy New Year! Thank you for celebrating a transformational year at SJMA with us!

In 2017, we presented the work of several distinguished artists from our diverse community. These creators “value borderless thinking, connecting the international and the local,” said Curator Lauren Schell Dickens in the Kickstarter video that launched latest stop on The Propeller Group’s “Viet Nam The World Tour”: the public mural by El Mac. Titled Sophie Holding the World Together, it depicts Sophie Cruz (see p. 10). Completed in December, this permanent mural in downtown San José connects to our exhibitions, education efforts, and public programs all year, as well as our goal to develop a borderless presence in Silicon Valley and beyond.

The year opened with a commissioned work in Beta Space: Victor Cartagena, which received wide acclaim. Cartagena researched the history and contemporary stories of farm workers in Salinas, California, to create site-specific works that honored the legacy of Cesar Chavez, including Sugar Face (2016) and Burrocracia (2016). Born in San Salvador and currently living and working in San Francisco, Victor embodies this idea of connecting the international and the local. 

Diana Al-Hadid: Liquid City, an exhibition by the Syrian-born artist living in New York, became an irresistible gathering place for visitors and students, like a fountain in a Roman piazza. We were honored when Artforum chose the exhibition as a “Critic’s Pick,” noting, “Under a barrel-vaulted skylight, Diana Al-Hadid’s monumental sculpture Nolli’s Orders, 2012, glistens as if wet, a tiered fountain’s downward currents frozen into stalactites. Al-Hadid’s many Renaissance references raise the stakes, and she manages to tease out spaces that are both real and otherworldly.” 

A borderless presence continued with a prestigious award from the American Alliance of Museum (AAM). SJMA’s exhibition publication, Tabaimo: Her Room, designed by Connie Hwang (who also designs this newsletter), won First Prize in AAM’s 2017 Museum Publications Design Competition. SJMA also acquired the Tokyo-based Tabaimo’s signature work dolefullhouse (2007), which will premiere in San José in the exhibition The House Imaginary, opening April 20, 2018. 

A 2017 highlight of our very active acquisitions program was our co- acquisition of Hito Steyerl’s work Factory of the Sun (2015) with the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. As the New York Times noted, the Berlin-based artist’s work has never been more recognized or relevant. This year Steyerl became the first female artist to top ArtReview’s Power 100 list. Furthermore, “she represents a new paradigm of the artist not as solitary genius but as networked thinker.” 

Our renewed focus on collaboration aligns us with the networked thinking of this visionary artist. We launched new local partnerships in 2017, including events with San Jose Jazz and San Francisco-based food non-profit La Cocina, which supports immigrant women. We created an expanded steering committee for community building, resulting in “New Terrains: Mobility and Migration.” The 2018 project will present a series of cross- disciplinary exhibitions, programs, and resources that explore how bodies move through social and political spaces in Silicon Valley and beyond. “New Terrains,” the third iteration of a multidisciplinary, community-wide initiative, opens between spring and fall 2018 and features organizations of all sizes and types, from downtown San José to Santa Cruz. The first project is SJMA’s collaboration with the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at University of California, Santa Cruz. Forest (for a thousand years) by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller opens April 7, 2018, at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. Stay tuned for details and dates from SJMA and partners, who include the de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University; History San José; MACLA/Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana; Palo Alto Art Center; San José Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA); San José Museum of Quilts and Textiles; The Tech Museum of Innovation; and ZERO1.

We continue to transform our vision and strategy for the future of SJMA. Like the inspiration behind Viet Nam The World Tour, we are working together to create a “borderless community of creative thinkers,” and we thank you for joining us. 

S. Sayre Batton
Oshman Executive Director