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.
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.
Diana Al-Hadid is fascinated by boundaries, where something begins and ends. How do we define a space—be it architectural, sculptural, or experiential? Drawing on a panoply of art-historical and scientific references, she explores the space between two-dimensional mark-making and three-dimensional sculpture, the imagined and the real, interior and exterior, belonging and alienation, the ruin and the yet-to-be-completed.
This exhibition is an experiment. Your Mind, This Moment: art and the practice of attention presents works of art as objects of meditation. With input from an advisory group of artists who are also meditators, the gallery will be designed as an intimate space that encourages quietude. Short guided audio meditations, created for this occasion by Bay Area mindfulness teachers, will be available for visitors. Related public programs will offer an array of opportunities to explore the intersection between the practice of looking and the increasingly widespread practice of mindfulness meditation.
SJMA is the only West Coast venue for the latest global overview of design today, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s popular contemporary design triennial. The New York Times heralded the exhibition as “an exciting opportunity to meditate on the perennially confounding questions: What is beauty? And what is it good for?” With projects ranging from experimental prototypes and interactive games to fashion and architectural structures made feasible by material innovations and nanotechnology, “Beauty” will feature more than 200 works by 63 designers from around the globe.
The precarious relationship between nature and humanity is the subject of this exhibition, drawn from SJMA’s permanent collection. For over two generations since Rachel Carson’s landmark book Silent Spring (1962) triggered the modern environmentalist movement, contemporary artists have been similarly moved by a primal reverence for nature and thus also prompted to raise questions about our rampant impact on the earth’s fragile ecosystems. For example, Anne Appleby uses the spare language of minimalism to record the subtle beauty of nature in Sage (1993), in which each monochromatic panel (built up of translucent layers of color) relates to the annual life cycle of a sage plant—and to Appleby’s observant, poetic take on the perennial succession of life, death, and renewal.
Milton Rogovin (1901–2011) shed light on important social issues of the time: the plight of miners; the decline of the once-robust steel industry in upstate New York; the everyday struggles of the poor and working class in Buffalo, New York, where he lived. Life and Labor marks the public debut of these photographs, which were gifted to the Museum’s collection in 2011.
At first thought, artistic and scientific practice might seem unrelated: one is focused on expression, the other on data. Yet the similarities between the way artists and scientists work far outweigh their differences. The scientist’s laboratory and the artist’s studio are places where learning is achieved through open-ended inquiry, a never-ending cycle of thinking and doing, and the belief that failure is an inherent part of the process. This exhibition celebrates artists represented in SJMA’s permanent collection who thrive at the interface between art and science.
By the 1960s, San Jose was in the midst of rapid-fire transition from a small agricultural community to a sprawling metropolis. The tech industry was swelling, and by the end of the decade the population had grown five-fold. This era also brought to town a new, innovative community of artists, many of whom were recruited from across the country by San Jose State College (now San Jose State University). Fresh from top graduate schools and conversant with the radical artistic thinking of the time, this generation of artists brought new vitality and a proclivity for experimentation to town.
Through the lens of art, photographer Richard Misrach and composer Guillermo Galindo give presence to the thousands of undocumented immigrants who cross into the US each year and encourage a humanitarian perspective on the plight of all immigrants. By bringing the border down to human scale, and by putting politics in the context of individual human lives, Border Cantos offers a provocative response to the polarizing discussions around immigration reform that have dominated local and national politics, both today and throughout the history of this country.
Imagine these ever-changing environments: Apartment buildings open to reveal the very private and sometimes strange lives of their occupants; behind a curtain of long, flowing dark hair, arteries feed blood to a pulsating heart and a throbbing brain slips off the edge of a table; a hanging lamp morphs into a full moon, which morphs into a manhole that swallows the contents of the room.