2016 Exhibits

The Butterfly Effect: Art in 1970s California

Exhibition Dates: September 17—December 30, 2016

Miriam Schapiro, Docking #2, 1971, acrylic on canvas, 72 in. x 30 1/8 in., from the collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson

The title of this exhibition, The Butterfly Effect: California Art in the 1970s, was inspired by mathematician Edward Norman Lorenz, who presented a paper in 1972 in which he used a butterfly as the metaphor for chaos theory. He proposed that even something as seemingly small and fragile as the beat of a butterfly’s wings can have great consequences. This exhibition will feature artworks that help tell the story of the chaotic and beautiful events that have shaped many of our present-day perceptions.

 “The Art Center, like many other local arts organizations, was founded in the 1970s—the same spirit that drove our founders to work together to create a place for art in the community was the catalyst for other organizations too,” says Art Center Director Karen Kienzle. “It was a time when people felt collectively they could make a difference.”

 The Butterfly Effect looks back at the rich and noisy decade in which the Palo Alto Art Center (then the Palo Alto Cultural Center) was founded. This metamorphic era gave form to the technological advances that created Silicon Valley and the resulting phenomenal growth in population of the San Francisco Bay Area. The 1970s were also a time of great social and political unrest. By the end of the decade, our greater social awareness set into motion many of our present-day perceptions and understandings of our world. 

 Drawn from art movements that preoccupied Bay Area artists during this pivotal era, the styles seen in this exhibition include Feminism, Pattern & Design, Kinetic Art, Photorealism, Spiritualism, Protest, Light and Space, the Paper Renaissance, and Color Theory. Painting, photography, sculpture, video, collage, assemblage, and printmaking are represented in a variety of ways that demonstrate visual manifestations of a metaphorical butterfly in flight.

 Built around the issues that were being addressed in the 1970s, The Butterfly Effect looks at the empowerment of individuals, the transformation of community, divergent spiritual practices, the importance of optimism and the hope of keeping a sense of possibility active. It also features works that demonstrate how this decade foreshadowed the technological advances that made possible the social, personal and business communications we depend on today to stay connected and informed. 

 Artists included in The Butterfly Effect are: Ant Farm, Eleanor Antin; Robert Arneson, Elaine Badgley Arnoux; Fletcher Benton; Eduardo Carrillo; Roy De Forest; Marc D’Estout; Jonathan Eubanks; James Grant; Chuck Hilger; Robert Hudson, Sister Corita Kent; Malaquias Montoya; Betanzos; Rupert Garcia; Bill Owens; Harry Powers; Miriam Schapiro; Fred Spratt; M. Louise Stanley; Carol Summers; Wayne Thiebaud; Leo Valledor; William Wiley, Paul Wonner, and Joseph Zirker. The exhibition is guest curated by Susan Leask.

Media Burn, by Ant Farm (Lord, Michels, Schreier), 1975, photo copyright Chip Lord

Fired Up: Monumental Clay

Exhibition Dates: June 18August 28, 2016

Viola Frey, Stubborn Woman, Orange Hands, 2004, ceramic with glazes, 72 x 80 x 72 inches © Artists’ Legacy Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photography by Chris Watson. www.artistslegacyfoundation.org

Fired Up celebrates the powerful potential of ceramic on a monumental scale. The exhibition takes over the Art Center galleries, public and outdoor spaces with large-scale ceramic sculpture and installation. Featuring the work of diverse artists from around the country in collections throughout the region, as well as a limited number of site-specific installations, Fired Up showcases the creative and expressive possibilities of clay—when scaled.


Susana Arias Jun Kaneko
Clayton Bailey
David Kuraoka
Leslie Ann Rice Bock
Robert "Bo" Kvenild
Shay Church
Courtney Mattison
Shenny Cruces
Jim Melchert
Stephen De Staebler
Tony Natsoulas
Jeffrey Downing
Elyse Pignolet
Bean Finneran
Peter Voulkos
Viola Frey
Matt Wedel
Dennis Gallagher
Wanxin Zhang
David Gilhooly

The artists in Fired Up shatter our preconceptions of what ceramic art can be, challenging us to think beyond the diminutive clay teacup. These works tower over us, consume our field of vision, require us to navigate around them. They assert themselves as art and object. As Jim Robinson in Large-scale Ceramics writes: “My own view is that to work large is to accept a challenge…create an interaction or dialogue—much more difficult to achieve in small works.”

 Scale provides a conceptual tool for Fired Up artists, assisting them in amplifying their message. Some works in the exhibition highlight the viewer’s own fragility and comparative insignificance, even reminding us of our mortality. Other works provoke humor through their magnification of humble, mundane objects. Further works speak to the fundamental connection between clay and earth—reminding us of the acute vulnerabilities of our planet.

 In clay, playing with scale inherently involves significant technical prowess—the manipulation of massive amounts of heavy material, along with engineering and structural feats that seemingly defy gravity. The grand vision of the artists in this exhibition can be experienced on a visceral level as they push the boundaries of their medium, bringing ceramics to astounding new levels of craftsmanship and content.

 Fired Up kicks off a year of programming in conjunction with the Palo Alto Art Center’s 45th anniversary. The exhibition is timed in conjunction with an institution-wide education initiative, 45 Days of Clay that features exhibitions, workshops, events, residencies, and hands-on workshops for all ages. These programs showcase the importance of ceramic art and education to the Palo Alto Art Center, celebrating our role in introducing ceramic art to thousands of community members in our four-decade history.

 Fired Up: Monumental Clay and 45 Days of Clay are supported by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, Peggy and Yogen Dalal, and The Lennox Foundation. Fired Up is supported by the Dorothy Saxe Exhibition Fund with contributions from Lois and Edward Anderson, Brigid Barton, Jeannie Duisenberg and Rich Hlava, Beverly and Peter Lipman, Patrick and Darle Maveety, Collette and Peter Rothschild and Jan and Vic Schachter.

Double Take by Patrick Dougherty: A site-specific installation

Exhibition Dates: January 2011—2016

Patrick Dougherty and detail of Ruaille Buaille (Hijinx) 2008, Parklands in County Offaly, Ireland. Photo: James Fraher

The Palo Alto Art Center is honored to present a monumental, site-specific installation by Patrick Dougherty, one of the nation’s most prominent environmental sculptors. The public may view the artist’s creative process during his three-week artist residency, January 11- 28, 2011, on the grounds of the Palo Alto Art Center.

Identified as the Jackson Pollock of saplings by art critic John Perreault, Patrick Dougherty is a process-oriented artist whose lyrical, organic works are created specifically for each site. Made from local and renewable willow saplings, his works embody natural life cycles, changing over time as the sticks settle and decay, eventually returning to the earth from which they grew. Dougherty has created over 200 monumental site-specific installations on the grounds of major museums, universities, botanical gardens, and private residences worldwide.The resulting works evoke a wide array of natural forms, ranging from nests to objects with a transparent architecture, like woodland dwellings, or basketry.

 Environmental sensitivity is a major concern for the artist. Saplings are gathered from maintained sources so that the branches grow back to make new sticks for future uses. Dougherty does not use any artificial supports in his constructions because the inherent properties of saplings cause them to snag and entangle easily.

 While there is a signature quality to his work, each of his compelling sculptures relates specifically to the physical site in a unique way. Dougherty believes that ideas percolate at the actual venue and that “the success of a piece lies in capturing the essence of a place and then playing with what you make of that essence.” Unlike other sculptors, he initially conceives of his work by making a series of word associations on both the physical and social qualities of a site. He is conscious of drawing in space, as he weaves sticks with lighter and darker colors and varying widths and lengths.

 This project is commissioned by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation and co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Public Art Commission. It is made possible by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

YouTube Videos

Cultural Kaleidoscope

Exhibition Dates: April 30—May 29, 2016

Youth Art 

Exhibition Dates: April 30May 22, 2016

Hundreds of student artists throughout Palo Alto and Menlo Park will meet at the intersection of creativity and innovation during this year’s annual Cultural Kaleidoscope and Youth Art exhibition at the Palo Alto Art Center, April 30-May 31, to share their youthful artistic expressions.

New to the event this year is the collaborative Data Art Project, created by the students at Synapse School in Menlo Park and Connect Charter School in Redwood City. During this venture, 300 students explored the connection between science, technology, math, design, music, and fine arts to create a large-scale, colorful, and modular installation in the sculpture garden of the Art Center.

Noa Mendelevitch, Director of Innovation at Synapse School, says, “Palo Alto Art Center has been instrumental in bringing our two communities together and helping bridge the gap between public and private school arts education.”

Cultural Kaleidoscope is a unique artist-in-the-schools program that links the neighboring and diverse communities of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and East Menlo Park, by building bridges through the arts. By partnering two K-5 classrooms from PAUSD and Ravenswood City School District to foster connections between students of diverse backgrounds, Cultural Kaleidoscope transcends traditional classroom instruction, providing engaging cross-cultural arts education. The culminating exhibition of the program, also named Cultural Kaleidoscope, showcases artwork produced in the residencies, featuring a wide range of media inspired by world cultures.

Youth Art presents artwork produced by students from kindergarten through high school within the Palo Alto Unified School District. The theme for this year’s exhibition is “The Art of Ideas.”

“Community partnerships and events that showcase the dedication and talent in our midst are key to helping every child thrive. To support and develop the leaders for the next generation, creativity and innovation are of the utmost importance, and arts education is a critical piece,” says Melissa Baten Caswell, Board Member of both the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation Board and the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education. “I applaud the Palo Alto Art Center for their ongoing support of the art educators in the Palo Alto Unified School District and thank both organizations for working together to support our students and publicly demonstrate their ingenuity and imagination.”

*Some artworks in the Youth Art exhibition are on view at the PAUSD District Office, 25 Churchill Avenue, during business hours 8:00 a.m.-4:45 p.m. and during the May 4 reception.

Left: James Craft, Cesar Chavez & Green Oaks Academy, Grade 1, Untitled, 2016, mixed media | Right: Emily Wang, Duveneck Elementary School, Grade 5, Adoptable, 2015, oil pastel

Bird In the Hand

Exhibition Dates: January 16—April 10, 2016

Michael Hall, I Hold You Tight To Keep You Safe, 2007, 6 x 5 ft., oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist

Since earliest recorded history, birds have inspired both awe and superstition. Their flapping, singing, tapping, and preening feed our imaginations, visiting not only the dreams of artists, but the collective consciousness of the entire human race. For this exhibition, we have created our very own exotic aviary, featuring the work of more than 40 artists from around the world.

Curated by Selene Foster and Andrea Antonaccio

Participating Artists

Troy Abbott
Lauren Ari
Eiko Borcherding
Ria Brodell
Jasmina Cibic
Emilie Clark
Timothy Cummings
Sarah Louise Davey
Lauren DiCioccio
Jessica Joslin
Christina Empedocles
Mandy Greer
Michael Hall
Rita Harowitz
Nicole Jean Hill
Dennis Hlynsky
Isabella Kirkland
Walter Kitundu
Malia Landis
Hung Liu
Nathan Lynch
Kara Maria
Stephanie Metz
Susan Middleton Robert Minervini
Vik Muniz
Jose Nuniz
Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor
Selene Perez
Robb Putnam
Alan Rath
Alexis Rockman Alexander James Rohrig
Clare Rojas
Jane Rosen
Laurel Roth Hope
Anne Siems
Deborah Simon
Kiki Smith
Sarah Smith
Inez Storer
Kevin Earl Taylor
Esther Traugot
Tara Tucker
Carlos Villa
Gerald Wiggins
Gail Wight Darren Waterston

2019 Exhibits2018 Exhibits | 2017 Exhibits | 2016 Exhibits | 2015 Exhibits | 2014 Exhibits | 2013 Exhibits | 2012 Exhibits