SFMoMA Brings Contemporary Artists to Silicon Valley

Charles Garoian, Drill Team: Homecoming Parade, 1974; powerpoint, performances with students at Los Altos High School;

From November 9, 2013 through March 2, 2014, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present Project Los Altos: SFMOMA in Silicon Valley, an exhibition sited throughout the downtown commercial core of Los Altos, a town located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Through the lens of national and international artists, this exhibition will explore the history and culture of this innovative region, the community of Los Altos and its surrounding areas, and the distinctive character of each artwork’s setting. Project Los Altos will be on view at indoor and outdoor locations—ranging from commercial spaces to a public intersection—and include existing artworks as well as newly commissioned, site-responsive projects. Featured artists include Jeremy Blake, Spencer Finch, Charles Garoian, Christian Jankowski, Chris Johanson, Mike Mills, Kateřina Šedá, Alec Soth, and Jessica Stockholder.

Project Los Altos will be free to the public and is organized by SFMOMA in collaboration with the City of Los Altos and lead sponsor Passerelle Investment Company, a local group working to enhance the vitality of the Los Altos community. Representing all curatorial departments of the museum, the exhibition is curated by Jenny Gheith, assistant curator of painting and sculpture, and Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture; with Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, assistant curator and acting department head of architecture and design; Rudolf Frieling, curator of media arts; and Corey Keller, curator of photography.

The exhibition is part of the extensive off-site programming SFMOMA has developed for the two-and-a-half-year construction phase of its major expansion project. While its building is temporarily closed for construction from the summer of 2013 to early 2016, SFMOMA will present a dynamic slate of jointly organized and traveling exhibitions; outdoor and specially commissioned projects; and newly created education programs throughout the Bay Area and beyond. On view concurrently in Silicon Valley with Project Los Altos will be a collaborative exhibition with the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Flesh and Metal: Body and Machine in Early 20th-Century Art (November 13, 2013–March 16, 2014).

“While SFMOMA is off-site, reimagining the museum’s role and exploring new ideas, Project Los Altos provides an exciting moment to capture the experimental nature of exhibition making,” notes Gheith. “With this collaboration, we’re thrilled to present a compelling platform for artists to make new work and for the community in Los Altos and the surrounding areas to engage with contemporary art in an unexpected way.”

“The City of Los Altos has a rich history of supporting the arts, particularly public sculpture,” explains Los Altos City Manager Marcia Somers. “By providing open space for a wide variety of art installations throughout the city, residents of all ages are able to experience fine arts on a daily basis. This unique collaboration between the City of Los Altos, SFMOMA, and Passerelle will strengthen the artistic presence already thriving in the community and welcome a whole new audience to experience the beauty and charm of Los Altos.”

Exhibition Overview

Located 37 miles south of San Francisco, Los Altos was initially an agricultural community known for its apricot orchards and small cottages. A large period of growth occurred from the 1950s through the 1980s, and in recent years Los Altos has again experienced a moment of development and transformation. Responding to this unique setting, this exhibition will feature existing artwork including Jeremy Blake’s Winchester trilogy (2002–4) from the SFMOMA collection and documentation of performance art that Charles Garoian organized with his students at Los Altos High School from 1969–86 alongside new commissions by seven national and international artists. These site-specific and site-responsive projects will be situated in the downtown commercial core in indoor and outdoor spaces that resonate with the artists’ interests. Ranging in scope and scale, the commissions will include a public street intersection that Jessica Stockholder will transform through color and form; photographs by Alec Soth that explore the emptiness and possibility of Silicon Valley, from the Googleplex to Steve Jobs’s garage; and others currently in development. More details on the artist projects will be announced in the coming months.

This exhibition is organized by SFMOMA in collaboration with the city of Los Altos. The lead sponsor for this exhibition is Passerelle Investment Company. Premier support is provided by Randi and Bob Fisher. Major support is provided by Christie’s.

Artist Overview

Jeremy Blake (1971–2007)
Blake’s Winchester animation was inspired by the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, an elaborate and bizarre 160-room Victorian mansion built between 1884 and 1922 by Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. Believing herself to be cursed by those killed by Winchester firearms, she was convinced that continuous construction on her house would keep their malevolent spirits away. For Blake, Winchester and her mansion offered ideal vehicles for exploring American mythologies and identities. Interestingly, in the late 1800s Winchester owned the 100-acre plot that became the townsite of Los Altos.

Charles Garoian (born 1943 in Fresno, California; lives and works in University Park, Pennsylvania)
Garoian received his BA and MA from California State University at Fresno (1968, 1969), and his PhD in education from Stanford University (1984). He is currently a professor of art education in the School of Visual Arts at Penn State University. A performance artist since 1970, he introduced exploratory, experimental, and improvisational processes of art making and teaching in his visual arts studio and art history courses at Los Altos High School between 1969 and 1986. In his book, Performing Pedagogy: Toward an Art of Politics (SUNY, 1999), Garoian conceptualized several of the live events that he and students performed at the high school, and those performed by his students at Penn State University, as critical pedagogy.

New Artist Commissions

Spencer Finch (born 1962 in New Haven, Connecticut; lives and works in Brooklyn)
Finch explores the uncertain nature of perception and experience through careful recordings of the natural world. Often engaged with literature, historical figures, and events, his projects translate his observations into a range of media, including pastel, watercolor, photography, glass tile, fluorescent light tubes, and television sets. Finch has noted, “My work doesn’t capture a moment; it captures the fleetingness of a moment.” Finch has exhibited internationally since the early 1990s. His mid-career survey titled What Time Is It on the Sun? was organized by MASS MoCA, North Adams (2007–8). He has had solo exhibitions at Indianapolis Museum of Art (2013); The Art Institute of Chicago (2011); Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (2009); Portikus, Frankfurt am Main (2003); and Artpace, San Antonio (2003). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions including the 53rd International Venice Biennale (2009) and Whitney Biennial, New York (2004).

Christian Jankowski (born 1968 in Göttingen, Germany; lives and works in Berlin)
The work of Christian Jankowski is a performance, which engages often unsuspecting collaborators to innocently collude with him, making them “co-authors” of the final result who participate (sometimes inadvertently) in the very conceptualization of the work. The collaborative nature of Jankowski’s practice is paramount, as each participant unwittingly contributes his or her own texture. With Jankowski, there is as much emphasis on the journey as the destination, and the risks and chances inherent in his collaborations ultimately give surprising shape to the final works. Jankowski’s work has been featured in various solo shows at institutions including Kunstmuseum Stuttgart (2008); Artsonje Center, Seoul (2006); and MACRO | Museo d’arte contemporanea Roma, Rome (2003). He has also participated in the group exhibitions Stage Presence: Theatricality in Art and Media (2012) and The Studio Sessions (2009) at SFMOMA; Common Ground, Public Art Fund, City Hall Park, New York (2012); Realisms, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2008); and Whitney Biennial, New York (2002).

Chris Johanson (born 1968 in San Jose, California; lives and works in Los Angeles)
Johanson came of age as part of San Francisco’s Mission School—a loosely connected, community-minded group of artists inspired by street and skate culture. With insight and humor, he creates deceptively simple paintings or rough-hewn sculptural environments that serve as armatures for personal, social, and cosmic concerns. Johanson has had solo exhibitions at Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (2011); the Portland Art Museum (2007); and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2001). His work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions including the Glasgow International (2012); 75 Years of Looking Forward, SFMOMA (2010); Baja to Vancouver: The West Coast and Contemporary Art (2004); 2002 SECA Art Award Exhibition, SFMOMA (2003); and the Whitney Biennial (2002). Johanson has a forthcoming solo exhibition at MOCA, Los Angeles this June.

Mike Mills (born 1966 in Berkeley, California; lives and works in Los Angeles)
Mills is a filmmaker and graphic designer. As a filmmaker, he has completed a number of music videos, commercials, short films, documentaries, and feature films. His early short films include The Architecture of Reassurance (2000), which focuses on ennui and anxiety in suburbia as seen through the eyes of a bored California teenager. Mills adapted and directed his first feature film Thumbsucker (2005) from Walter Kirn’s novel of the same name that won awards at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals. His second feature, the Academy Award–winning film Beginners (2010) was inspired by Mills’s father and explores the humor and transformative moments found in the most serious circumstances of life. His graphic design work includes album covers for Beastie Boys, Air, Sonic Youth, and others. Mills’s work has been featured in the National Design Triennial, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York (2003), and Beautiful Losers, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2004).

Kateřina Šedá (born 1977 in Brno, Czech Republic; lives and works in Brno–Líšeň and Prague)
Marked by collaboration, Šedá’s projects often involve a community of participants that are brought together in order to address a situation or issue. Her orchestrated actions center on the lives of ordinary people and on furthering communication through shared experience. Whether she is synchronizing the daily actions of a village or holding a contest for neighbors to draw the view from their front door, Šedá’s meaningful shifts alter perceptions and the definition of normalcy. Šedá has had solo exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Luzern (2012); Tate Modern (2011); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2010); and the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago (2008). Her work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions including 10th Lyon Biennial (2009); The Generational: Younger Than Jesus, New Museum of Contemporary Art (2009); and 5th Berlin Biennial (2008). Šedá will represent Taiwan in the Venice Biennale this summer.

Alec Soth (born 1969 in Minneapolis; lives and works in the Twin Cities)
Soth is a photographer and a member of Magnum Photos. His work is rooted in the distinctly American tradition of on-the-road photography developed by Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Stephen Shore. From Huckleberry Finn to Easy Rider there seems to be a uniquely American desire to travel and chronicle the adventures that consequently ensue. His photographs have been featured in numerous solo and group shows, including the Whitney Biennial (2004) and São Paulo Biennial (2004). In 2008, a large survey exhibition of Soth’s work was exhibited at Jeu de Paume in Paris and Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. In 2010, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis mounted a comprehensive exhibition with an accompanying catalogue entitled From Here To There, Alec Soth’s America. Soth’s first monograph, Sleeping by the Mississippi, was published by Steidl in 2004. Since then he has published NIAGARA (2006), Fashion Magazine (2007), The Last Days of W (2008), and Broken Manual (2010). In 2008, Soth started his own publishing company, Little Brown Mushroom.

Jessica Stockholder (born 1959 in Seattle; lives and works in Chicago)
Stockholder explores the pictorial potential of sculpture through vibrantly colored installations and autonomous floor and wall pieces. Her site-specific installations have been called “paintings in space” and often consider the architecture that frames them. For Color Jam (2011) she playfully transformed an intersection in downtown Chicago. Stockholder observed, “The corner is canvas, stage, pedestal, and frame against which the public can view a parade of shifting color relationships.” Stockholder is the chair of the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. She has had solo exhibitions at Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid (2010); MoMA PS1, Long Island City (2006); Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1995); and many others. A fifteen-year survey of her work was co-organized by the Blaffer Art Gallery, University of Houston; and the Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro (2004–5). Her work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions such as the Whitney Biennial (2004) and the Venice Biennale (1997).