'Movement: An Experience
in the Unexpected'

A new exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art, 'Momentum,'
urges artists and patrons to consider what moves them
Home Movies 300-3 MOVING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK: Jim Campbell's piece, 'Home Movies 300-3,' is one of many pieces from the San Jose Museum of Art's permanent collection that will be on display in the new exhibit, titled 'Momentum: An Experiment in the Unexpected.'

As the San Jose Museum of Art enters its 45th year, museum staff and curators are taking a step back to reflect on how far they've come and where they're going, and they are asking the public to help them gain some perspective with a new exhibit.

"The 45th anniversary is sort of mid-life," muses Robin Treen, special projects coordinator at the museum. "Where do you go from here? What is it that you really want to do?"

Momentum: An Experiment in the Unexpected, which opens on Oct. 2, attempts to help the museum answer these questions by displaying a wide variety of pieces from the SJMA's permanent collection, having a number of local performers, writers, musicians and other makers respond to the pieces with works or performances of their own, and then asking attendees to do the same—in prose, poetry, on the dance floor and through visual art.

"I always think of artwork as kind of a conversation," Treen says. "I think any creative endeavor really is."

"The very traditional, kind of old-school idea of a museum, is that there is this institutional voice telling you what the work means and what went into it," says Kat Koh, curatorial associate at SJMA. "The museum approach to art now is a lot more participatory and open. The audience has more agency in the process."

In putting together Momentum, Koh was responsible for choosing the works from the museum's permanent collection to display. When thinking about what pieces belonged in the exhibit, Koh says she thought about the various kinds of movement and momentum. She chose pieces that had moving elements, such as videos, as well as pieces that hinted at movement more abstractly—works in which the viewer can really see the momentum and movement of the artist, either in strong brush strokes or lines carved in wood. And then there are photographs, which have frozen a single moment in time and draw the viewer's attention to the passage of the years.

"Time and movement are very closely connected," Koh says, echoing Treen in her explanation of why this exhibit makes sense at this juncture.

While Koh was busy choosing works to place in the exhibition, Treen worked on selecting 10 artists who would serve as "interveners" or "disruptors." Included in this group is a comedian, a graphic designer and a designer of bicycles, a venture capitalist turned stand-up comedienne, and the current poet laureate of Santa Clara County.

All of the individuals selected by Treen have crafted responses to the works selected by Koh. For example, Damien Smith, principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, will respond to the Fred Spratt's 1965 painting Grenholm with a new dance, which he will perform while simultaneously keeping his feet wet with paint. His dance will be captured on video and shown adjacent to the painting, while the marks he leaves on the canvas underfoot will also be recorded and on camera projected onto the floor in front of the painting.

While the responses of the 10 "interveners" are important to the exhibit, Koh says the interaction of the patrons that is most critical to the exhibit.

"The most important layer is the response of our audiences," she says. Visitors to the museum will have the chance to draw on tablet computers, write poetry and prose responses to pieces, and to dance on a dance floor. "This exhibition challenges traditional notions of what an exhibition looks like and feels like."

Koh says she hopes the exhibition will help people break out of the preconceived notions of what a museum is supposed to be like or look like, and that it may inspire creativity in the museum patrons. Many people don't feel like they are creative enough to make art, she says. "That's not true at all. I believe everyone is creative in their own way."

'Movement: An Experience in the Unexpected'

San Jose Museum of Art

OCT. 2-FEB. 22

Tues.-Sun. 11am-5pm

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