Crowds wielding quarter-page red guidebooks meander around downtown streets in search of artistic gems as part of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Project Los Altos: SFMOMA in Silicon Valley.” Although some of the creations unfold on screen or gallery walls, many of the project installations involve visitors in more immersive experiences.
The Town Crier team toured the sites during the inaugural weeks of the project and compiled an insiders’ guide with navigation tips. Readers can clip the guide out, photograph it for cellphone viewing or even memorize it as a tool to impress guests. For a PDF version of our guide, click here.
Whether tackling one or two project installations at a time or all exhibits in one trip, lace up comfortable walking shoes for a modern-art treasure hunt.
“Project Los Altos” runs through March 2. Read the Town Crier for updates on special events scheduled during its stay.
Outdoor installations are open at all times. Indoor installations are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. For additional information visit sfmoma.org/exhib_events/exhibitions/572.
– Text and photos by Ellie Van Houtte
Costume Bank, 169 State St.
Mike Mills, “A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought Alone: Silicon Valley Project”
• Enter through the Costume Bank, to its back room.
• Inspired by Silicon Valley’s transition, Mills’ installation includes a video of local youth describing their ideas of the future with short biographies and photos of eight people who work or live in the area.
• A copy of the April 1, 1976, Los Altos Town Crier enables visitors to review news events during the year Steve Jobs incorporated Apple Computer. A copy of Apple’s incorporation papers is in the centerfold.
Tip: Mills collected pieces of clothing from the subjects included in his installation and displays the articles on a rack in the corner of the room. Look closely at the labels.
242 State St.
Jeremy Blake, “Winchester”
• Inspired by San Jose’s Winchester House, built circa the 1880s by Sarah Winchester, who also owned the property that became the city of Los Altos. Blake’s three-screen film seems more psychedelic than spooky.
Tip: Allow at least 10-15 minutes for viewing.
Spencer Finch, “Back to Kansas”
• Configured in the shape of a movie screen, the blocks of this colorful grid are inspired by the colors found in the movie “The Wizard of Oz.”
Tip: View Finch’s piece just before and after sunset. As the sun sets around 5 p.m., relax in one of the comfortable sofas as the squares fade to gray. Cards and pencils are available to allow guests to mark the times when the different colors disappear.
271 State St.
Christian Jankowski, “Silicon Valley Talks”
• Comfortable bright-green furniture invites guests to relax as they enter the dim space of Jankowski’s installation.
• Filmed talks by nine local entrepreneurs – ranging from how to write a poem to falling in love and an introduction to fly fishing and vacation – challenge visitors to get lost in the artistic presentation of the spoken word.
Tip: Jankowski filmed the series earlier this month, and the presentation includes local residents.
359 State St.
• A Los Altos High School art teacher for 17 years, Garoian’s slide show highlights nine performance-art pieces created with his students during his tenure.
Background article: "Former LAHS teacher Garoian inspired a generation of 'misfits'"
Katerina Šedá, “Everything Is Perfect”
• In Šedá’s vision, every Los Altos or Los Altos Hills resident is someone with “ordinary characteristics and talents.” Her installation involves the community as the primary subject of her artistic experiment.
• Unlike most of the other installations, Sedá’s project is a work in progress. A physical desk with submission forms and a computer allow viewers to submit a record for inclusion in a “Los Altos World Record Book,” scheduled for publication in the spring.
Tip: After visiting the submission desk, visit everythingisperfect.org to see some of the current entries, ranging from the Youngest Mayor to the Longest Knitting Pig Hat.
Background Article: "Project Los Altos artist collecting everyday records from residents"
• Enjoy a unique glimpse of Silicon Valley through Soth’s collection of black and white photographs.
• From obscure landscapes of tech headquarters to local residents in venues that defy the perceptions about the area, the collection illuminates iconic and everyday community scenes from a new perspective.
Intersection of State and Fourth streets
Jessica Stockholder, “Cross Hatch”
• With an October unveiling, this street painting was SFMOMA’s first “Project Los Altos” exhibit to arrive in town.
• The piece incorporates shapes that mimic the triangular shape of downtown Los Altos.
• Sitting in the bleachers adjacent to the installation, visitors can observe pedestrians, cars and other elements as they intersect with the artwork.
Tip: Consider climbing the stairs located on the Plaza Central side of 142 State St. for a unique photo angle.
Background Article: "Bold strokes on State Street draw colorful reaction"
Shasta and First streets
Chris Johanson, “If You Are Open to It, You Can Find a Sign That Can Be a Sign”
• Finding this installation by Johanson can be difficult, but if visitors pay close attention to the intersection, they can spot a green post jutting from a building on the north side of Shasta Street.
Tip: This piece is best examined by viewing from all angles.
Chris Johanson, “Door Sculpture to Talk About the Idea of Different Possibilities You May Have to Process Your Life”
• A series of three life-size doors open at different angles represents the opportunities for change that individuals encounter in life and their willingness to embrace them.
• Colorful frames entice visitors of all ages, especially children, who can be spotted wandering through the installation on the way to school in the morning.
Tip: Stop by the installation on a foggy morning to experience a sense of serenity and mystery. The vibrant doors seem particularly prominent to the eye as a blanket of fog fades the traffic of Foothill Expressway and the giant redwood trees of Lincoln Park into the background.
Chris Johanson, “I Do Not Know But Am Open to Learning”
• Johanson’s giant, inflated question-mark installation is easy to find.
Tip: Walk through and around the perimeter of the park to see how the landscape changes the way the sculpture is framed.
Civic Center Apricot Orchard
Chris Johanson, “The Field Became an Orchard Became a House and Became an Orchard (in Los Altos)”
• Surrounded by an orchard of trees, it’s easy to miss this installation – a weathered door that rests on the ground. The door mysteriously seems to predate the tree growing through it.
Tip: As leaves change color and small yellow flowers blossom, November is the ideal time to visit the city’s signature orchard to peek at the installation.