2017 Exhibits


Exhibition Dates: September 16—December 29, 2017
Opening Celebration: Friday, September 15, 2017

Andy Warhol & Billy Klüver, Silver Clouds [Warhol Museum Series], 1994, Helium-filled metalized plastic film (Scotchpak), The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh ©2017 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

“The ability to play is critical not only to being happy but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.” 
–Stuart Brown

The concept of play is undergoing a renaissance. Whereas once it may have been applied to immature behavior, or used to describe the wasting of time, now it is recognized as an essential form of intellectual work for both children and adults, as well as a path to creative productivity and social well-being.

 Animals, including humans, play under the most adverse of circumstances; it is irrepressible. And research shows that consistent playtime fosters empathy, makes us smarter and more adaptable, and builds a framework for complex social behavior.

 Each of the artists in Play! is vigorously engaged in the practice of play, and together they illustrate the myriad of ways this can be done. Andy Warhol and Billy Kluver’s immersive Silver Clouds and William T. Wiley’s Punball machine were imagined as instruments of play. Berlin-based artist Hans Hemmert uses balloons, a material we all recognize as a play object, to build a slowly deflating castle barely contained by the walls of the gallery. Dana Hemenway and Terry Berlier turn everyday objects into the stuff of play, while painter Robert Burden and installation artist Nils Volker use familiar imagery to recover the wonder they experienced as children.

 Each of these artists believe what more and more researchers, educators, and creatives are upholding as truth — that play is integral to the psychological wellbeing of each of us as individuals, as well as to the health of our families and communities.

 Curated by Selene Foster and Andrea Antonaccio

 Check out events related to the exhibition as part of our Season of Play!

Michael Light: Planetary Landscape

Exhibition Dates: June 17August 27, 2017 
Opening Celebration: Friday, June 16, 2017, 7-10 p.m. 
Artist Talk: Sunday, June 25, 2017, 3-4:30 p.m.

Mile-Wide, 200' Deep 1952 MIKE Crater, 10.4 Megatons, Elugelab Island, Enewetak Atoll; 2003

Geological time is measured by the growth or diminishment of mountains—in millennia, not years. Many scientists now acknowledge humankind’s impact on the planet and have chosen to call this the Anthropocene era, or the “new era of man”. Whether initiated at the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s, or during the atomic testing of the 1950s, humans are leaving a permanent mark on the planet.

The theme of human intervention in natural processes connects all of Light’s varied bodies of work. They offer a glimpse into the hubris of mankind; we leave footprints on the moon, plant green lawns in the desert, level mountains, and create our own suns through atomic energy.

Some of Light’s images are ghostly while others are blinding in their brilliance. It is often difficult to tell if you are looking at the moon or the bottom of the sea, at a crater left by a meteor or one made by the explosion of a bomb. This ambiguity is as critical to these works as is their beauty and their sense of the sublime, beguiling and seducing the viewer into looking more deeply.

Light’s artistic practice often extends beyond the use of what we consider the traditional tools of the visual arts. He pilots a small, 600 lb aircraft to scout and image his own aerial locations. Scuba diving allows him to explore, similarly in three dimensions, the still-radioactive results of our prolific atomic tests in the South Pacific. Coupling digital technologies more frequently used in the production of cinema with a taste for putting his body at risk more akin to performance art, Light uses whatever means are necessary to create a document of our constantly evolving–and constantly altered– “planetary landscape."

This exhibition is guest curated by Sharon Bliss.


Michael Light is a San Francisco-based photographer. He has exhibited globally, and his work has been collected by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Getty Research Institute, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, among many others.

Kija Lucas: Collections from Sundown

Exhibition Dates: May 27—July 9, 2017

Kija Lucas photograph

In Collections from Sundown, local photographer Kija Lucas uses notes written by her mother and grandmother to share an intimate portrait of Alzheimer’s disease. Sundown refers to Sundowners Syndrome, a set of symptoms common in Alzheimer’s patients that often get worse after the sun goes down. These symptoms include increased confusion, and, in the case of Lucas’ grandmother, the collecting and packing of belongings in preparation for a perceived trip.

 Kija Lucas is an artist and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She uses photography to explore ideas of home, heritage, and inheritance. Lucas received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2006 and her MFA from Mills College in 2010. Her work has been exhibited throughout the Bay Area as well as in Los Angeles, Italy, and Mexico. She has participated in Artist-in-Residence programs at Montalvo Center for the Arts, Grin City Collective, and the Wassaic Project.

Cultural Kaleidoscope

Exhibition Dates: April 29—May 28, 2017
Opening Celebration: Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 4:30-7 p.m. Remarks at 6 p.m.

Girl next to youth art

Cultural Kaleidoscope (CK) is a unique artists-in-the-schools program that links Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and Menlo Park, building bridges through the arts. Moving beyond traditional classroom instruction, CK provides engaging cross-cultural experiences in an integrative visual arts environment. K-5 classrooms from Palo Alto Unified School District and Ravenswood City School District are partnered and connections are fostered between students from diverse backgrounds. Together, these students see works of art during field trips to local museums and make art under the guidance of professional artists. These classes correspond with each other throughout the program, developing writing skills and friendships in the process. 

This year, Cultural Kaleidoscope brought art instruction to an entire grade level at one elementary school in the Ravenswood City School District. For this pilot program, a teaching artist facilitated core curriculum-integrated art making in four second grade classes at Brentwood Elementary. Their Cultural Kaleidoscope experience culminates with a field trip to the Palo Alto Art Center to view their artwork on display. 

Cultural Kaleidoscope received a 2015 Superintendent’s Award for Excellence in Museum Education, chosen by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, in conjunction with the California Association of Museums.

Youth Art

Exhibition Dates: April 29May 21, 2017
Opening Celebration: Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 4:30-7 p.m. Remarks at 6 p.m.

Humans have always told stories. An ancient Paleolithic hand print on a cave wall signals that “someone was here”, and suggests a narrative. Our stories encourage trust and empathy, connecting us to others and promoting understanding.

Storytelling can be accomplished as successfully with images as with words. Visual stories inspire us to see and think in ways that transcend the limitations of language, encouraging multiple meanings and a diverse range of responses. This is a core value of PAUSD Art Education and we are thrilled to share our students’ visual stories with you. Enjoy!

Creative Ecology: Mari Andrews

Exhibition Date: March 17—May 21, 2017

Mari Andrews in the studio

Artist Mari Andrews transformed natural materials that might otherwise go unnoticed into wall-sized sculptures for this exhibition at the Palo Alto Art Center. “My work is always about the beauty of nature and paying attention to what’s around you, and inspiring people to take better care of nature,” says Andrews. “All of the branches in this exhibition come from trees that dropped them during the series of storms this year.” 

Andrews’ effort is part of Creative Ecology: Exploring Our Environment with Art, Science, and the Community, an innovative program promoting appreciation of the natural world through scientific inquiry and the creative process. The effort includes artists, educators, and the larger community, and is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and made possible through a partnership between the Palo Alto Art Center and the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo.

Spectral Hues: artists + color

Exhibition Dates: January 21—April 9, 2017

Mitchell Johnson, Piaggio, 2009-12, oil on canvas, 78 x 120 in., Courtesy of the artist

Forty-five years ago the Palo Alto Art Center showcased an exhibition exploring the conceptual use of color by Bay Area artists. As a continuation of the Art Center’s year-long celebration of its still vibrant service to the Palo Alto community, Spectral Hues examines light and color in the work of today’s Bay Area artists by featuring a selection of works that explore the presence, or lack, of color along with the optical and emotional influence of color on the viewer, and the interaction of light and color. Artists in the exhibition include: Anne Appleby, Leo Bersamina, Omar Chacon, Freddy Chandra, Amy Ellingson, Eden V. Evans, Kristin Farr, Anoka Faruquee, Marguerite Fletcher, Stephen Giannetti, Mike Henderson, Karrie Hovey, Henry Jackson, Mitchell Johnson, Amy Kaufman, Keira Kotler, Richard Mayhew, Ron Nagle, Ruth Pastine, Mel Prest, Ken Price, Meghan Riepenhoff, Tamra Seal, Jenny Sharaf, Lisa Solomon, Victoria Wagner, Nancy White. Spectral Hues is guest curated by Sharon Bliss.

Kristin Farr, Magic Hecksagon, 2006, Gouache and acrylic on wood, 17.5 in. diameter

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