Past Exhibitions

If toxic air is a monument to slavery, how do we take it down?

Research agency Forensic Architecture uses cutting-edge technologies to investigate human rights violations, working on behalf of communities affected by police brutality, border regimes, and environmental violence. At SJMA, they present their research on the petrochemical corridor of “Death Alley,” Louisiana, and offer tools to help combat a three-hundred-year continuum of environmental racism. 


The landscape of memory has shifted dramatically over the course of the Digital Age, marked by the ease and speed at which we can record, store, and share information. Encode/Store/Retrieve draws together artworks from SJMA’s collection to explore low-tech forms of memory production and provide strategies to grapple with the emerging issues of our growing digital archive.  

Nuts and Who’s: A Candy Store Sampler

In the 1960s, artists in Northern California embraced an attitude towards art-making that was irreverent, bawdy, and free-spirited, which resonated with artists across the country who rejected the mainstream art world. Through objects primarily drawn from SJMA’s permanent collection, this exhibition focuses on the convergence of these artists around the Candy Store Gallery, and the cross-fertilization of ideas that resulted.

Liliana Porter: Actualidades / Breaking News

Liliana Porter’s surreal compositions using toys interrogate the boundaries between representation and reality. Liliana Porter: Actualidades / Breaking News is a focused presentation of Porter’s expansive conceptual practice, highlighting her skilled evocation of poignant philosophical and political questions through otherwise simple gestures and miniature objects.

Yolanda López: Portrait of the Artist

Artist and activist Yolanda López (1942–2021) created portraits that have become icons of feminist and working-class empowerment. This exhibition examines López’s profound influence as an artist who radically reimagined representations of women in Chicano/a/x culture and society at large, and highlights the formative role the Bay Area played in López’s artistic output and activism. 

Sadie Barnette: Family Business

Sadie Barnette’s multimedia practice explores her own family history as it mirrors a collective history of repression and resistance in the United States. In a new commission for the ongoing Visualizing Abolition collaboration with the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at University of California, Santa Cruz, Barnette proposes an alternate history of Black America, one shaped by state-sanctioned terror but also by love, support, celebration, and the fullness of human relationships.

Sky Hopinka: Seeing and Seen

The artworks of Sky Hopinka, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and a descendant of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, traverse the legacies of colonial oppression and Native resistance through meditations on the continuities between past and present. A new film by Hopinka was commissioned as part of Visualizing Abolition, an art initiative of the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at University of California, Santa Cruz and San José Museum of Art. 

A Point Stretched: Views on Time

A Point Stretched highlights artworks in a variety of mediums that stretch, compact, and warp the viewer’s sense of time. Drawn primarily from SJMA’s permanent collection, artworks by Diana Al-Hadid, Chitra Ganesh, David Huffman, Ranu Mukherjee, Maia Cruz Palileo, and others position human existence within broader timescales from long-ago ecologies to distant possible futures. 

Kelly Akashi: Formations

Kelly Akashi is known for her materially hybrid works that are compelling both formally and conceptually. Originally trained in analog photography, the artist is drawn to fluid, impressionable materials and old-world craft techniques, such as glass blowing and casting, candle making, bronze and silicone casting, and rope making. The exhibition encompasses artworks made over the past decade and features a newly commissioned series in which Akashi explores the inherited impact of her family’s imprisonment in a Japanese American incarceration camp during World War II.

Brett Weston

Recognized for his bold, abstract compositions of western landscapes and natural forms, Brett Weston was a leading photographer of the early twentieth century. Spanning the 1930s through the 1970s, Brett Weston features fifty-one photographs drawn exclusively from SJMA’s permanent collection that highlight the photographer’s enduring motifs and technical experimentation. 

Wayfinder: Juan Carlos Araujo

Wayfinder: Juan Carlos Araujo is a public art project that encourages visitors to explore the heart of downtown San José. Commissioned by SJMA, 40 streetlight banners designed by Araujo with bright, ebullient colors and vivid abstractions are installed along East Santa Clara Street between Market and 20th streets.

Jean Conner: Collage

Organized by SJMA, Jean Conner: Collage is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition and brings long-overdue recognition to her extraordinary and fanciful collages. Primarily made from images cut out of such large-format color magazines as Life and Ladies’ Home Journal, Conner’s vivid, pictorial worlds feature playful arrangements of animals, nature, religious symbolism, aquatic environments, food, women, dancers, and divers.

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.  

Beta Space: Trevor Paglen

Beta Space: Trevor Paglen will feature the artist’s first sound piece, a new public commission titled, There Will Come Soft Rains (2021), installed in SJMA’s historic clocktower and resounding into the streets of downtown San José from 8am–8pm on the hour, as well as sunrise, solar noon, and sunset.

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.

Hito Steyerl: Factory of the Sun

SJMA presents the landmark video installation, Hito Steyerl’s Factory of the Sun (2015), a joint acquisition with the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and SJMA. Interweaving genres of video games, internet dance videos, news reportage, and documentary film, the installation tells the surreal story of workers whose forced moves in a motion capture studio are turned into artificial sunlight. Factory of the Sun probes the pleasures and perils of digital image circulation, while exploring possibilities for collective resistance when surveillance has become routine in an increasingly virtual world. 

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 with the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at University of California, Santa Cruz, 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.

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.

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.