In 1968, at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, San José State University runner Tommie Smith raised a gloved fist during the medal ceremony to protest human rights abuses around the world, and to bring international attention to the struggle for civil rights in the United States. This act of protest, which still reverberates today, is explored in a series of collaborations between Smith and Los Angeles–based conceptual artist Glenn Kaino.
Oakland-based artist Woody De Othello creates anthropomorphized household objects in ceramic. Belying their cheery and colorful veneers is a darkly comedic sense of exhaustion. Born in Miami to a family of Haitian descent, Othello is interested in the nature of many African objects, which offer both ritual and utilitarian functions and possess a spirit of their own. His sculptures express a tension between the animate and inanimate and draw humor from a place of pain.
Los Angeles-based artist Pae White transcends nearly all traditional boundaries—between art and design; craft and fine art; theory and materiality. Her curiosity with the world reveals itself in her transformation of ordinary objects into profoundly transient experiences that defy logic, yet remain oddly familiar.
Known for her large-scale works of art made from materials that she has sourced throughout the world, Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World is the first mid-career retrospective and touring exhibition of the artist’s work. This major exhibition focuses on four interdependent themes in Banerjee's work: identity, globalization, feminism, and climate change.
Explore Rina Banerjee’s use of material and play with language in her titles in the Koret Family Gallery’s interactive Art Learning Lab where you will make observations, ask questions, and participate in creative experimentation.
Catherine Wagner’s visual investigation of laboratories explores systems of scientific research and knowledge. Highlighting her monumental Pomegranate Wall (2000) and photographs taken within laboratories, this exhibition considers the parallels between artistic and scientific inquiry and process.
This series highlights women artists and filmmakers whose works draw on the histories of representation and performance in film and video to address some of the most pressing social issues of our time. Topics range from representations of African Americans in vernacular culture to the politics of space and collective memory.
Though she is well known for her monumental painting The Rose (1958–66), Jay DeFeo’s visual and poetic associations play across a remarkable array of media and material. This focused exhibition highlights her prolific use of photography—unique prints, photo collages, and photocopies—in conversation with drawings and paintings from the 1970s and 1980s to track the artist’s visual vocabulary across media and subject matter.
One of our most elemental behaviors as physical beings—like eating, sleeping, and breathing—is walking. It’s an amateur activity. But what happens when we become explicit, inquisitive, and deliberate about what is as natural to us as eating and breathing? Walking is both universal and idiosyncratic: we all walk but choose different paths, peppered by different interactions and experiences.
A show within a show, Other Walks: Gabriel Orozco is an in-depth look at the photographs and videos of Gabriel Orozco, who since art school has walked the streets and experimented with what he encounters. For Orozco, photography is less a medium than a tool for collecting his interactions with circumstances and objects. He sees his straightforward photographs—rainwater collected in an umbrella, fleeting footprints embalmed in concrete, steam rising from a grate—as containers of events or phenomena that are still occurring, still being experienced, through the viewers’ act of looking.
The largest solo exhibition in the United States in more than a decade of the work of internationally-renowned artist Dinh Q. Lê, this exhibition of five major video and photography installations entwines rarely heard narratives of war and migration from people in North Vietnam, the Vietnamese diaspora, and refugees who, like Lê, have returned to live in their home country. Assembling these obscure stories through the collection of found photographs, artists’ war sketches, and oral histories, Lê presents a multifaceted story about Vietnamese life before, during, and after the Vietnam War. In the process, he questions the viability of collective memory and reveals the effects of trauma on the cultural imagination.
SJMA will present the US premiere of Won Ju Lim’s multimedia installation California Dreamin’ (2002), recently acquired by the Museum. Born in Gwangju, South Korea, and raised in Los Angeles, Lim created California Dreamin’ while living abroad in Germany during a period when she was intensely homesick.
Conversion is the third installment of Koret Family Gallery exhibitions to focus on STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). Explore the intersection of art and engineering through artwork selected from SJMA’s permanent collection.
This exhibition highlights the generous 2016 donation to SJMA’s collection by J. Michael Bewley, as well as works from Bewley’s personal collection. Bewley, a retired employment lawyer in San José, was committed to combatting social injustices in the workplace. Spanning nearly a hundred years of artistic production and encompassing various mediums including painting, sculpture, collage, photography, and textile, these works are united by a strong social and political motivation.
In The House Imaginary, the house is a lens through which artists explore memory, identity, and belonging in an increasingly itinerant world. The house can be a lightning rod in which social policies around immigration, homelessness, urban planning, race, and gender intersect with personal histories and fictions. After the horrors of World War II, theorist Theodor Adorno famously declared, “dwelling, in the proper sense, is now impossible…. The house is past.” He was claiming that personal security can no longer be considered apart from the systemic oppressions and omissions necessary to retain that security. This recognition is achingly urgent today in an era of global migrations, heightened awareness of inequalities, and San José’s own housing crisis.
Many of Raimonds Staprans’s paintings showcase the landscape and architecture of California as rooted equally in reality and in the artist’s imagination. Taut contours and bold hues define fields, marinas, lone trees, and architecture—all devoid of people—while scorching sunlight descends from skies of the deepest blue. His still lifes of fruit, artist’s materials, and chairs share a quality of light and rich color—sometimes a full prismatic spectrum—that imbue them with a pervasive loneliness. The assertive brushwork and traces of revision present in all his work remind the viewer that his chief reality is paint on canvas, his subjects formal elements in his process.
Crossroads: American Scene Prints from Thomas Hart Benton to Grant Wood focuses on early twentieth-century American culture and society through lithographs, etchings, and wood engravings. The fifty-seven prints in this exhibition, produced between 1905 and 1955, encompass a broad range of art styles collectively known as “American Scene.”
The Propeller Group anchors its ambitious projects in Vietnam’s history and its paradoxical present. Based in Vietnam and Los Angeles, the art collective extends its reach to address global phenomena, from street culture to international commerce to traditions shared across cultures. In multifaceted projects, The Propeller Group blurs the lines between modes of cultural production and embraces the formats of branding campaigns, television commercials, Hollywood movies, and music videos to explore the complex ideologies that drive global commerce, war, and cultural and historical memory. One highlight of the exhibition is The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music (2014), a visually lush film that follows funerary traditions of the Mekong Delta. It combines documentary footage, staged reenactments, and fantastical scenes to explore slippages between real and imagined rituals shared across cultures. The film is accompanied by sculptures inspired by traditional Vietnamese funerary objects: a carved jackfruit wood snake with gold fangs and an adorned water buffalo skull.
In 1957, Louise Nevelson (1899–1988) installed one of her first “Sky Cathedral” sculptures in the lobby of her brother’s hotel, the historic Thorndike Hotel in Rockland, Maine. It hung there for ten years until it was acquired by the pioneering collectors of American sculpture Jean and Howard Lipman. The Lipmans displayed the massive wooden assemblage of black painted boxes in Howard Lipman’s Manhattan business office. Sky Cathedral (1957) became a central piece in the family’s collection when in the 1970s they moved to Arizona and built a new house to accommodate its monumental scale. Their son Peter, along with his wife, Beverly, generously donated the sculpture to the San Jose Museum of Art in 2010.
Louise Nevelson: The Fourth Dimension brings this important work in SJMA’s permanent collection together with personal objects and ephemera from the Peter and Beverly Lipman Collection.
While the selfie can be considered a common version of the self-portrait genre, it is often a vastly different from the self-portrait in the hands of an artist. By blurring the distinction between reality and fantasy, artifice and authenticity, and public and private imagery, the artists whose work is included in This Is Not a Selfie carefully fabricate photographs that expand the domain of self-portraiture.
The interactive learning labs in the Koret Family Gallery are a place to make observations, ask questions, and participate in creative experimentation. This installation reflects the math-focused curriculum of SJMA’s award-winning education program Sowing Creativity and includes artworks by Ron Davis, David Pace, Clare Rojas, Lordy Rodriguez, and Shirley Shor.
Our simultaneously abusive and dependent relationship with water has made it an international battleground not only of environmental issues, but also of humanitarian concerns. The Darkened Mirror complements the pristine waterscapes on view in the exhibition Fragile Waters by presenting recent work by international artists who address our conflicted relationship with water today. From their twenty-first-century points of view, they reveal an essential resource that is no longer merely threatened, but actively besieged: it is a troubling reflection of the contemporary moment.
As consumers, we are often oblivious to the humans who perform the hard, physical work that brings food to our tables. One champion of this labor force, the United Farm Workers (UFW), has fought for the rights of migrant farm labor since 1962. San Jose was home to the UFW’s founder, the well-known activist Cesar Chavez. In the fifth installment of SJMA’s exhibition series “Beta Space,” artist Victor Cartagena will collaborate with the Salinas chapter of the United Farm Workers Foundation to create new work that will spotlight the lives and stories of the people who help feed populations across the United States.
Water is very much on the minds of Californians after six years of drought. Fragile Waters celebrates this precious, essential resource and encourages dialogue about water conservation. One hundred and seventeen black-and-white photographs by three artists whose works span a century create a powerful collective statement. The exhibition will feature thirty-seven works by Adams— including rarely seen historic images from his family’s private collection—along with photographs by Ernest H. Brooks II and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly.