Artists Re-interpret the Book in SJMA’s Book-ish Opening September 25

Release date

    SAN JOSE, California (September 13, 2011)—The San Jose Museum of Art will look at visual artists’ re-interpretation of the book in the exhibition Book-ish, on view September 25, 2011, through January 15, 2012. The exhibition includes approximately 25 works from the Museum’s permanent collection that were inspired by books, literature, the artists’ reverence for reading, and the physical form of the book. Book-ish features works by Rick Arnitz, Chester Arnold, Romare Bearden, Enrique Chagoya, Roy De Forest, Lewis deSoto, Brian Dettmer, Rupert Garcia, F. Scott Hess, Dong Phan, Roger Shimomura, Inez Storer, Larry Sultan, and Stella Waitzkin.

    “Book-ish is the latest in a series of exhibitions that examine crosscurrents among works in the Museum’s permanent collection—and showcase new acquisitions in a context that is timely and also encourages deeper discovery,” said Susan Krane, Oshman Executive Director at SJMA. 

    “The book as we have known it for centuries is challenged today by the rapid growth of digitization and e-books,” said Jodi Throckmorton, associate curator at SJMA. “This trend raises tough questions about the future of conventional books and the once-beloved printed page. Some of the artists featured in Book-ish take the physical book as a starting point, while others explore the stories and characters found in literature.” 

    Among the works inspired by the book as an object is Stella Waitkin’s Untitled (Book Series of 13), a recent acquisition on view for the first time in Book-ish. Waitzkin (1920-2003) is known for her obsessive “library” installations, with which she filled her small apartment in New York’s legendary Chelsea Hotel. She cast ornately bound books and stacks of books in resin. “Like cherished memories, her books are hauntingly silent, hermetic and removed from reality,” said Throckmorton.

    Other artists whose works are featured in Book-ish reinterpret legends and literary classics. Subjects include the ancient Greek myth of Artemis (Roy de Forest’s Slow Time in Arcadia, 1977) and Homer’s The Odyssey (Circe Into Swine, 1979, by Romare Bearden). In his series, “KLS,” Lewis deSoto took a conceptual approach to the work of Herman Hesse. The artist (who ritually rereads Hesse’s novella Klingsor’s Last Summer every summer) gives visual form to the author’s verbal descriptions of color by arranging hues in concentric circles that correspond to the order in which Hesse cites the colors. 

    The exhibition also includes artists’ books, such as Roger Shimomura’s Memories of Childhood, 1999, and The Uneventful Life of Doña Carmen y Constanza, 1997 by Inez Storer. 

    Book-ish is sponsored by Doris and Alan Burgess.

    In connection with the exhibition, the Museum has planned an array of related public programs that coincide with National Book Month in October. On Wednesday, October 5, at noon, artist Chester Arnold will give a Lunchtime Lecture. His painting The Fate of the Written Word, 2008, is featured in Book-ish. Throckmorton will give a gallery talk about the exhibition on Thursday, October 20, at 6:30 p.m. The Museum’s popular series DIY Art will focus on altered books on Saturday, October 22, from 1 to 3 p.m. For more details on public programs visit


    The San Jose Museum of Art is a distinguished museum of modern and contemporary art and a lively center of arts activity in Silicon Valley. The leading institution in the area dedicated to the art of our time, SJMA is committed to providing access for its extraordinarily diverse populations and to pioneering new approaches to interpretation. Established in 1969, SJMA presents art ranging from modern masterpieces to recent works by young, emerging artists. SJMA’s permanent collection of more than 2,000 twentieth- and twenty-first-century works of art, including paintings, sculpture, installation, new media, photography, drawings, prints, and artist books, has a special focus on West Coast art, seen in a national and international context. SJMA is the largest provider of youth arts education in Santa Clara County and serves more than 37,000 students annually through curriculum-based arts programs and integrated technology. 

    The San Jose Museum of Art is located at 110 South Market Street in downtown San Jose, California. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, and free to members and children under 6. For more information, call 408-271-6840 or visit


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    Programs at the San Jose Museum of Art are generously supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, by operating support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the James Irvine Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the Koret Foundation; the Adobe Foundation; the MetLife Foundation; and a Cultural Affairs grant from the City of San Jose.