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San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Presents The More Things Change

The More Things Change samples from SFMOMA’s always evolving collection and showcases recent acquisitions—some on view here for the first time—to present a selective survey of art made since 2000. A collaboration among ten curators from all five of the museum’s curatorial departments, the exhibition reflects on some of the broad ideas and sentiments that have characterized the last decade, gathering works in a wide range of media by such artists as Tomma Abts, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Tacita Dean, Omer Fast, Paul Graham, Tino Sehgal, Shahzia Sikander, Amy Sillman, Peter Wegner, and Pae White, among many others. The More Things Change will be on view in the museum’s fifth-floor galleries from November 20, 2010 through October 16, 2011.

From this varied selection of diverse forms and voices, common themes emerge: fragmentation, systemic collapse, sudden shifts, fragility, entropy, metamorphosis, mutation, and reconfiguration. Revealing the museum’s collection as a seismograph of shifts in contemporary culture, The More Things Change considers how art engages with the world at large and how the past persists in the present. The exhibition features approximately 50 works in its initial presentation and will periodically change with new works being added throughout the run.

The exhibition’s title is inspired by the widely familiar epigram from the nineteenth century, and is meant to prompt questions. What really changes? What changes matter? What stays the same? How is possible to be new? Based on this proposition, the exhibition seeks to explore prevalent themes of the 21st century via a diverse range of artwork in SFMOMA’s collection.

In many ways the first decade of the 21st century has witnessed cataclysmic shifts in defining attributes of the American and the international landscape. Major events such as 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Bush Doctrine, rising waters in Sri Lanka and New Orleans, the election of the first African American president of the United States, and the first global economic recession have radically altered and continue to shape the world around us in ways that we are still in the process of understanding, on both global and local scales. Though not necessarily about any one event in particular, The More Things Change sketches the mood of the last ten years, in effect creating a thematic and psychological portrait of the decade.

On view for the first time will be Pae White’s large-scale tapestry titled Smoke Knows (2009), based on close-up photographic images of drifting smoke plumes. Contrasting smoke’s immaterial nature with the tangible physicality of woven fabric, the work captures and freezes the ephemeral, turning something entirely transitory and fugitive into a fixed, tactile object. Also on view for the first time from the Painting and Sculpture department, Matthew Buckingham’s single 35mm slide projection Image of Absalon to Be Projected Until It Vanishes (2001) depicts at the bottom of the frame a statue built to memorialize the 12th-century Viking knight, who was a nationalistic hero known for his crucial role in the creation of Denmark’s written history. Each time the work is shown, the slide is projected until the heat from the projector lamp eventually fades the image, causing the monument to dissolve into a white background—a testimony to the erosion of historical memory and the provisional nature of social and national values. Other first-time presentations from this area of the collection include works by Aaron Curry, Wade Guyton, Sergej Jensen, Mary Heilman, Kristen Morgin, and Shahzia Sikander.

From the photography department, Paul Graham’s recently acquired photograph Pittsburg (Man Cutting Grass) (2004) will be presented for the first time. The picture is part of the series Shimmer of Possibility, which led the artist on a journey throughout the United States to make photographs of ordinary Americans doing everyday things. While the subject of the image—a man mowing his lawn—is inarguably prosaic, Graham’s photographs are anything but. Composed of nine individual prints arranged to depict the event unfolding over time, the piece calls attention to the beauty of simple things that might easily be overlooked. Photographs by Barbara Bosworth, Doug Hall, Pieter Hugo, Richard Learoyd, and Alessandra Sanguinetti will also be on view for the first time with this exhibition.

The Architecture and Design collection will debut, among other recent acquisitions, two of Tom Price’s Meltdown chairs from 2008. In the series, Price heats and presses a metal seat former—similar in shape to the Eames molded plastic armchair shell—into a ball of plastic material. As the substance comes into contact with heat, it begins to liquefy and, as it cools in a mold, sets in the shape of a seat. Despite appearing brittle and charred, the seat maintains the resilience and flexibility of the material in its original form. Melding the iconic midcentury shape to common household plastics revitalizes the controversial discussion of plastic as a prevalent material. Other highlights include Roy McMakin’s Untitled (Vases about Language and Redemption) (2004) and Tauba Auerbach’s Alphabetized Bible (2006), which reorganizes the entire text of the Bible based on the artist’s own system of logic.

From the Media Arts department, a rich selection of video and film installations by such key figures as Eija-Liisa Ahtila and Jeremy Blake will rotate over the course of the exhibition, offering narratives of psychological fragility and meditations on the slippages between memory and cinematic representation. Other newly acquired performance-based videos by artists such as Patty Chang and Ryan Trecartin will be presented for the first time. Additional highlights include two dialogue-centered pieces that exemplify SFMOMA’s recent forays into collecting more intangible media such as online art and live performance: Tino Sehgal’s performance piece This Is New (2003) will be interpreted by SFMOMA staff members in the museum’s Haas Atrium through February 2011, and Bay Area artist Stephanie Syjuco debuts the results of her collaboration on the presentation format of Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July’s online project Learning to Love You More (2002–2009).

The Education department will also work with Stephanie Syjuco on an interactive commission titled Shadowshop (2010). Shadowshop will be a fully functioning retail space located in the gallery overlooking the Rooftop Garden, offering merchandise created by nearly 100 Bay Area artists—objects, texts, and images that circulate in the shadow economies of contemporary art. This space will also serve as the hub for various live public programs hosted in conjunction with the exhibition. In addition, SFMOMA’s blog Open Space ( will feature writings by the curators and others, published throughout the run of the show.

Complete List of Artists

Tomma Abts; Eija-Liisa Ahtila; Tauba Auerbach; Maarten Baas; Laura Belém; Jeremy Blake; Barbara Bosworth; Mark Bradford; Matthew Buckingham; Rosana Castrillo Díaz; Patty Chang; Aaron Curry; Tacita Dean; Thomas Eggerer; Mitch Epstein; Kota Ezawa; Omer Fast; Vincent Fecteau; Tony Feher; Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July; Kate Gilmore; Jim Goldberg; David Goldblatt; Paul Graham; Mark Grotjahn; Cao Guimarães; Beate Gütschow; Wade Guyton; Doug Hall; Rachel Harrison; Mary Heilmann; Pieter Hugo; Elliott Hundley; Sergei Jensen; Shai Kremer; Andrew Kudless; Liz Larner; An-My Lê; Richard Learoyd; Sze Tsung Leong; Michael Light; An Te Liu; Laura McPhee; Roy McMakin; Julie Mehretu; Abelardo Morell; Kristen Morgin; Mitzi Pederson; Lari Pittman; Tom Price; Will Rogan; Victoria Sambunaris; Alessandra Sanguinetti; Matt Saunders; Felix Schramm; Alex Schweder; Judith Scott; Tino Sehgal; Paul Shambroom; Alyson Shotz; Shahzia Sikander; Amy Sillman; Paul Sietsema; Alex Soth; Larry Sultan; Stephanie Syjuco; Ryan Trecartin; Charline von Heyl; Peter Wegner; Pae White; and Tokujin Yoshioka.

Image: Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Lahja (The Present), 2001; five-channel video installation with sound; Collection SFMOMA; © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / KUVASTO, Helsinki

SFMOMA welcomes more than 650,000 visitors annually, and more than 46,000 students visit each year. Since opening its South of Market building in 1995, SFMOMA has added more than 13,000 works to its collections, 95 percent of which were donated, doubling its holdings to 26,000 works. At the same time, SFMOMA’s family programs have increased fivefold, teacher-training programs have increased sixfold, and gallery tours have expanded to 1,800. SFMOMA has mounted a series of exhibitions that have drawn both record attendance and critical praise, including recent exhibitions by Diane Arbus, Olafur Eliasson, Eva Hesse, Frida Kahlo, William Kentridge, Richard Tuttle, Luc Tuymans, and Jeff Wall.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

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