Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo Document the Realities of the US-Mexico Borderlands in New Exhibition at SJMA

Release date 
Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Border Cantos: Richard Misrach | Guillermo Galindo
February 26 – July 26, 2016

SAN JOSE, California (February 2016)— Immigration—seen in intimate, human terms—is the subject of an exhibition premiering at the San Jose Museum of Art beginning February 26. Developed collaboratively by photographer Richard Misrach and experimental composer Guillermo Galindo, Border Cantos is both a cross-disciplinary exploration of the US/ Mexico border and the artists’ “song” about the realities of life in this contested zone. The exhibition features 36 monumental landscape photographs of the borderlands by Misrach alongside 17 hand-crafted musical instruments created by Galindo from found objects recovered from the border (e.g. a shoe, a backpack, a drag tire). The exhibition will also include a sound installation by Galindo, who has composed original compositions for his sculptural instruments that fill a dedicated, 2,000-square foot gallery. Border Cantos will be on view at SJMA from February 26 – July 26, 2016; it then travels to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.

“The San Jose Museum of Art is proud to showcase this powerful collaboration between Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo, both Bay Area residents. Border Cantos offers a humanitarian perspective on heated political issues around immigration, border security, and immigration reform.” says Susan Krane, Oshman Executive Director of the San Jose Museum of Art. “In San Jose, some 50% of those over 35 were born in a different country. Immigration is a subject of particular and communal importance here. Misrach and Galindo have created a poetic cycle of ‘songs’ that gives emotional resonance to this universal subject and that speaks to the arduous journeys of migration occurring across the globe today.” Misrach has been photographing the American landscape for over 40 years. In 2009, he turned his attention to the construction of the 1,969 mile border fence, as it cuts it way across the grand expanse of the southwestern desert. In images that are simultaneously romantic and trenchant, he looks at both the environmental and social impacts of the border. Misrach worked with a high-definition digital camera as well as just with his iPhone as he followed the traces of human presence —clothing, children’s toys, Border Patrol “drag” tires, spent shotgun shells—that punctuate the endless landscape. When Misrach discovered that Galindo (a Mexico City-born US citizen) had stopped making regular trips to the border, the two artists began to collaborate. Misrach shipped the cast-off objects he collected during his extended photo shoots in the borderlands back to Galindo, who then used them to construct musical sculptures.  

Galindo is an experimental composer whose work is influenced by the avant-garde musical traditions of John Cage and by contemporary cultural and political events. Galindo transforms Misrach’s scavenged items into instruments based on indigenous musical instruments from around the world. A discarded food can becomes the resonating chamber of an instrument modeled on a single-stringed Chinese erhu. He strings together empty shot gun shells to create a variation of a West African shaker and creates a crank drum (inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical device named the martello) using a shoe, a glove, a drag tire, and rawhide.

Border Cantos is an artistic collaboration that unveils the migrant experience and honors human stories—represented through lost possessions and found objects,” said Rory Padeken, assistant curator at SJMA. “Misrach’s photographs and Galindo’s instruments are distinct, yet highly interrelated, calls to bear witness to the consequences of a highly militarized, hotly contested border zone.”

A full-color brochure with an essay by Padeken, and introduction by Krane, and a poem by United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera will be available for free throughout the exhibition.

Border Cantos will be accompanied by a region-wide series of programs on immigration that will explore the human side of immigration debates and their particular relevance to the Bay Area community. Organizations presenting related programs include: Asian Pacific Fund, San Jose; Cabrillo College Puente Project, Aptos; Children’s Discovery Museum, San Jose; City Lights Theater Company, San Jose; City of San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs; Consulado de Mexico en San José; de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University; Exploratorium, San Francisco;; History San José; Japanese American Museum of San Jose; MACLA (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana), San Jose; Montalvo Arts Center; Museum of Art & History, Santa Cruz; Opera Cultura, Oakland; New Museum of Los Gatos (NUMU); Pajaro Valley Arts, Watsonville; Poetry Center San Jose; San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA); San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles; San Jose Public Library; San Jose Stage Company (in partnership with El Teatro Campesino); School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, San Jose; Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History, San Jose Public Library San Jose State University; Tadaima Project, Asian Law Alliance, San Jose; Teatro Visión de San José; The Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose; University of California, Santa Cruz/Chicano Latino Research Center; and Veggielution, San Jose.

Border Cantos is made possible in part by grant support from the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Creative Work Fund, a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund that is also generously supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Additional support comes from the Consulado de México en San José, Claudia and Sven Weber, and Evelyn and Rick Neely.

Richard Misrach

An internationally recognized photographer, Richard Misrach is renowned for his powerful explorations of the environmental, social, and political consequences of human intervention in the landscape. In projects like Cancer Alley (the industrial corridor along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, home to over 135 plants and refineries) and Destroy this Memory, (about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina), Misrach gives visibility to the underrepresented and brings to life the human stories behind headlines.

Born in 1949 in Los Angeles, Richard Misrach received a BA in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1971. His numerous awards include three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1977, 1984, 1992); a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1979); a Eureka Fellowship, Fleishhacker Foundation (1991); a Lucie Award for Achievement in Fine Art (2008); and the David Brower Center Art/Act Award (2013). His work has been shown nationally and internationally in solo exhibitions at International Center for Photography, New York (1975); Musée national d’art moderne, Paris (1979); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1983); Oakland Museum of California (1987); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1996); San Jose Museum of Art (1998); Art Institute of Chicago (2007); New Orleans Museum of Art (2010); University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (2011); and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta (2012). Over twenty-five books and monographs have been published on Misrach’s art. His work is included in the collections of the Amon Carter Museum of Art, Fort Worth, Texas; Art Institute of Chicago; Australian National Gallery, Canberra; Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Oakland Museum of California; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; San Jose Museum of Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Guillermo Galindo

Guillermo Galindo is a composer, performer, and sound architect who reconsiders the conventional definitions of music, sound art, and musical composition. Galindo’s interpretation of musical form, timing, musical notation, and sonic archetypes and his use of inventive soundgenerating devices are hallmarks of his art. His compositions have been performed at major festivals and concert halls in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. From symphonic works and acoustic chamber compositions to live performance art, his work spans the domains of music and the visual arts, computer interaction, electro-acoustic music, opera, film, instrument building, installation, and improvisation.

Born in 1960, Guillermo Galindo received his BA in film scoring composition from Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts in 1989, and his MA in music composition and electronic music from Mills College, Oakland, California in 1991. His numerous awards include a residency at Banff Centre for the Arts, Alberta, Canada (1999); a California Arts Council Composers Fellowship (2000); a Creative Work Fund Media Arts Grant (2003); a Sistema Nacional de Creadores composition grant (2005-2008); and an Artistic Innovation Award from the Center for Cultural Innovation (2011). His work has been performed at the Hong Kong City Festival (1999); Bourges Electronic Music Festival, France (2000); Arte Sonoro Festival at 4 the Roy and Edna/Cal Arts REDCAT Theater, Los Angeles (2004); Sound Symposium, Newfoundland, Canada (2006); and Festival RADAR, Mexico City (2009). Galindo’s media and sound installations and instrumental compositions have been performed at and by the Orquesta Filarmónica de la UNAM, Mexico City (1996); Oakland Museum of California (2003); Oakland East Bay Symphony Orchestra, California (2006); Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City (2007); Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (2011); and Zellerbach Playhouse, Berkeley, California (2014). He teaches sound design, performance, and electronic media at California College of the Arts, San Francisco.



The San Jose Museum of Art celebrates new ideas, stimulates creativity, and inspires connection with every visit. Welcoming and thought-provoking, the Museum rejects stuffiness and delights visitors with its surprising and playful perspective on the art and artists of our time. 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 PM to 5 PM and until 8 PM or later on the third Thursday of each month. 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 made possible by generous operating support from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Lipman Family Foundation, the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, the Koret Foundation, a Cultural Affairs grant from the City of San Jose, and, with support for exhibition development, Yvonne and Mike Nevens.