Past Exhibitions

Hulda Guzmán: Higüero

A COOL MILLION (ACM) is a public arts initiative for climate awareness led by artists and institutions to expand environmental justice programming and support the conservation of one million acres of land central to the California hydrological system. See Hulda Guzmán's Higüero (2020) enlarged on a banner on the exterior of SJMA's building.

Our whole, unruly selves

Human beings are boundless. We can unravel ourselves along various threads of identity—gender, ethnicity, nationality—but there are always more. The nuanced experience of existing within a body has inspired artists throughout history, and continues to drive new visual languages today. Encompassing a diverse group of artworks from the 1960s to the present, Our whole, unruly selves explores the changing stakes of figurative representation, highlighting forms of resistance, openness, and an embrace of opacity.  

Wayfinder: Clare Rojas

Wayfinder: Clare Rojas is a public art project that encourages visitors to explore the heart of downtown San José. Commissioned by SJMA, 40 streetlight banners designed by Rojas in shades of pink, magenta, and lavender are installed along South Market and West San Carlos Streets.

Break + Bleed

Like the break of a line or page and the bleed of various elements beyond the edge or boundary of a certain area, the artworks in Break + Bleed oscillate between ideas of linearity and geometry and overlapping planes of color and form. Drawn primarily from SJMA’s permanent collection, the exhibition features artwork by Josef Albers, Karl Benjamin, Linda Besemer, Tony DeLap, Sam Francis, Sonia Gechtoff, Helen Lundeberg, Brice Marden, John McLaughlin, Ted Stamm, Frank Stella, Patrick Wilson, and Leo Valledor, among others.

South East North West: New Works from the Collection

Reflecting the high-tech interests, lively cultural diversity, and innovative spirit of Silicon Valley, this exhibition features artworks by 30 artists from 11 countries, from internationally renowned figures to those working in California and the Bay Area as well as emerging practitioners. The exhibition highlights a dynamic array of paintings, sculptures, photographs, works on paper, and new media acquired by SJMA in the last five years.

Barring Freedom

Barring Freedom, co-organized by the UC Santa Cruz Institute of the Arts and Sciences, brings together contemporary artists confronting the historical and structural racism embedded in the criminal justice and mass incarceration systems.

Kids Summer Art Camp Virtual Exhibitions

Welcome to SJMA's first ever interactive virtual exhibitions featuring artwork from our kids summer art camp young artists, SJMA's gallery teachers and studio art educators, as well as our professional guest artists.

do it (home)

In 1993, Hans Ulrich Obrist together with artists Christian Boltanski and Bertrand Lavier, conceived do it, an exhibition based entirely on artists’ instructions, which could be followed to create temporary art works for the duration of a show. do it questioned authorship, challenged traditional exhibition formats, and championed art’s ability to exist beyond a single gallery space.

Do Ho Suh: Karma

Do Ho Suh’s sculpture Karma (2010) is a 23-foot tower of bronze male figures, each perched atop another’s shoulders and shielding that figure’s eyes with his hands.

Sonya Rapoport: biorhythm

Sonya Rapoport: biorhythm focuses on a decade of rapid transformation in the artist’s practice—from her first SJMA exhibition of paintings in 1974 to her computer-mediated interactive performances—examining the artist’s prescient exploration of computer-collected and -analyzed personal data and its aesthetic and cultural implications.

With Drawn Arms: Glenn Kaino and Tommie Smith

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.

Woody De Othello: Breathing Room

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.

Speed City: From Civil Rights to Black Power

This archival exhibition examines the broader history of athletics at San José State University beyond Tommie Smith and within the historical framework of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Almost Human: Digital Art from the Permanent Collection

The technologies developed in Silicon Valley have intrigued and inspired artistic experimentation for more than three decades and pave a way toward the future. Almost Human: Digital Art from the Permanent Collection highlights artists who use digital and emergent technologies from custom computer electronics and early robotics to virtual reality and artificial intelligence.​

Beta Space: Pae White

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.

Rina Banerjee: Make Me a Summary of the World

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.


Koret Gallery: Rina Banerjee Learning Lab

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: Paradox Observed

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.

Screen Acts: Women in Film and Video

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.

Undersoul: Jay DeFeo

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.

Other Walks: Gabriel Orozco

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.​

Other Walks, Other Lines

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.​

Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return

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.

Won Ju Lim: California Dreamin’

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.