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San Jose Museum of Art explores nature and humanity in new exhibition "Indestructible Wonder"
Diana Thater, Untitled (Butterfly Videowall #2), 2008. Five flat screen LCD monitors, Blu-Ray player, Blu-Ray disc, distribution amplifier, two fluorescent light fixtures, and Lee filters; Dimensions variable; Museum purchase with funds from the Acquisitions Committee and the Lipman Family Foundation.

SAN JOSE, CA.- The San Jose Museum of Art explores the precarious relationship between nature and humanity in the exhibition Indestructible Wonder, on view August 18, 2016 – January 29, 2017. Drawn primarily from SJMA’s permanent collection, the exhibition includes works by artists who observe and reflect on the natural world as well as those who document humanity’s impact on the environment.

“Contemporary artists have long been moved by a primal reverence for nature and thus also prompted to raise questions about our rampant impact on the earth’s fragile ecosystems,” said Rory Padeken, associate curator at SJMA and curator of the exhibition.

Indestructible Wonder marks the debut of an important new work acquired by SJMA earlier this year: Untitled (Butterfly Videowall #2) (2008) by Diana Thater. Thater, whose work was the subject of a major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this spring, is known for her video installations of natural phenomena and endangered species. For Untitled (Butterfly Videowall #2), Thater filmed monarch butterflies as they rested on the ground at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico, where millions of monarchs hibernate after their long migration from Canada. Due, in part, to the lack of foliage on the trees in which the butterflies normally take refuge, their only option was to gather together on the forest floor—an extremely vulnerable position. The footage of a single butterfly appears on five upturned monitors on the gallery floor. “Thater created a meditative experience through which to consider the lives of other creatures who share this planet,” said Padeken.

SJMA has commissioned Oakland artist Evan Holm to create a new work especially for the exhibition. WaterTable (2016) is a 24-foot long table made of manzanita branches and other materials. The table is filled with water, in which the stripped-down elements of an audiotape player are partially submerged. As the piece plays recorded instrumental music, the audiotape emerges from the surface of the water, runs the length of the table, and re-submerges in a continuous loop. Meanwhile, duckweed floats on the surface of the water in currents created by the turning spools.

Other highlights include: Sage (1993), Anne Appleby’s minimalist ode to the lifecycle of a sage plant; photographer Edward Burtynsky’s images of oil fields in Belridge, California; the multi-media installation Center of Gravity (2008) by Gail Wight; and photographs from the series “Midway” by Chris Jordan, which depict the effects of ocean-borne plastics on seabirds. Works by Lisa Adams, Chester Arnold, Ruth Asawa, Sandow Birk, Val Britton, Amy Kaufman, Mayme Kratz, Danae Mattes, Richard Misrach, Judy Pfaff Nathan Redwood, Sam Richardson, Alyson Shotz, Kathryn Spence, and Kristen Stolle will also be on view.

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