San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art


We're pleased to present this week's Curators' Picks and Tipsheet.  In addition to shining a spotlight on four auction works,  we've added a "pinteresting" auction fact and collecting tip.

And keep an eye out for the auction invitation that'll be arriving in your mailbox next week.  It's a fridge-worthy piece that includes a complete listing of this year's 180+ exhibiting artists as well as important event and program dates. 

If you don't receive an auction mailer, it's because you're not on our snail mail list.  But that's an easy fix! Simply email  your address info and we'll add you to the list. Type "Add me to your mailing list" in the email subject line.

We look forward to seeing you during auction season!



Annual Art Exhibition & Auction
Curators' Picks and Tips
 "The more the art dominated my life and my house, the more the house became a home."
  - Burt Reynolds in Architectural Digest, Sept 1983



The auction gallery can also be viewed on Pinterest, right?
Absolutely! We've covered all the internet bases! Most of the auction works are pinned on our auction board and new works are added weekly.

Collecting Tip

Forget about investing. Buy what you like and enjoy.  For example, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel were a couple - he was a postal worker, she was a librarian - who amassed one of the largest contemporary art collections of the 20th century, estimated at over 60 million dollars.  They didn't buy art for investment purposes. They chose pieces they liked and could carry home on the subway or in a taxi.  Eventually their entire one bedroom New York City apartment was filled, floor to ceiling, with art.             

P.S. Coming to a theater near you in September,  HERB & DOROTHY 50X50  a follow-up film to Megumi Sasaki's award-winning documentary Herb & Dorothy(2008) that captures the last chapter of the Vogel's lives - a donation of  5o works from their collection to a museum in every state. 
Curators' Picks

Fletcher Benton
Fletcher Benton, Spring It, No. 39, 2012, Painted steel, 24 x 15 x 6 inches, Courtesy of the Artist

As a young artist, Fletcher Benton was a sign painter and a painter of abstract art. In the 1960's he began building a career as a prolific sculptor.  Today this Bay Area artist is considered to be one of America's best-known kinetic artists (he abandoned kinetic art in the 1970's), and he is most recognized for his monumental bronze and steel sculptures.


From the Spring It series, I feel that No. 39 strongly exemplifies Benton's geometric, abstract constructions with its clean lines and simplistic forms. The sculpture appears to be a cross between a sophisticated mechanical device and a playful puzzle with perfectly connected and precariously balanced parts.


Benton was born in Jackson, Ohio in 1931 and was the recipient of the prestigious International Sculpture Center Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture in 2008. His work is found in numerous private and public collections including major venues such as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He taught at California College of Arts and Crafts, San Francisco Art Institute, and California State University campus in San Jose.

 -Donna Napper  

Yu Cotton-well
Yu Cotton-well, I.O.U., 2011, Handmade wood box, fiber, handmade stuffed animal, and mixed media, 20x8x6 inches, Courtesy of the Artist

Yu Cotton-well's primary medium is fiber combined with ordinary objects. Her two delightful auction pieces are from the series I.O.U. They include a stuffed pig and cow, each handmade and contained in individual wood boxes. In these works, Cotton-well addresses our weakening connection with and appreciation for animals used for sustenance and clothing, and how such creatures are viewed as merchandise, particularly in Western societies. The title I.O.U. as in
"I owe you" posits we have become disengaged from our relationship to animals yet we should be indebted to those creatures that provide for our everyday existence. For example, what and how much do we know about the meat on our dinner table? Or the milk in our cereal?


Born and raised in Japan, Cotton-well graduated from San Jose State University and presently lives in Los Angeles. Currently, one of her sculptural installations is featured in the window at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, on view through September 8th. Later this year her work will be presented be in a solo exhibition in Tokyo.

-Donna Napper

Val Britton, Convergence, 2010, Ink, graphite, and collage on paper, 19 x 23 inches, Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

I first saw Val Britton's work at her 2006 MFA show at California College of the Arts (CCA).  Of all the MFA work I saw that season, Val's collages were among the best. Since then, I've been following her career and was thrilled to present her large-scale immersive installation Intimate Immensity as part of our Sandbox Projects program this spring. It was one of the most popular shows we've presented. Val's auction piece is a mixed media collage that draws on the language of maps. According to Val, much of her work is influenced by a longing to connect to her father, a cross-country truck driver who suddenly passed away when she was a teenager. Based on road maps of the United States, routes her father often traveled, and an invented conglomeration, fragmentation, and abstraction of those passageways, Val's works on paper help her "sort through a geologic tangle of memories" and further imagine parts unknown.
- Cathy Kimball
Kathryn Dunlevie, Syncopated Swimming
Kathryn Dunlevie, Syncopated Swimming, 2009, Mixed media on panel 31 x 52 inches, Courtesy of the Artist and Hooks-Epstein Galleries, Houston

Taking the time to look at a work of art beyond a cursory glance is always a rewarding endeavor. What, at first, seems obvious and straightforward becomes more complex and compelling upon closer observation. Alternatively, that which appears complicated and chaotic resolves into segments of clarity and meaning. This is certainly the case in the work of Kathryn Dunlevie. Her photographic collages initially seem to represent recognizable scenes. However, it is soon apparent that Dunlevie is depicting the intersection of multiple perspectives of time and space in her complex compositions. Injecting a wry twist of humor into the work, she compels the viewer to try and "solve" the spatial puzzle, to make some sense of the similar, yet disparate elements of her tableaux. Time is an important element in her work - the time it takes to create such complex compositions and the time it takes to visually deconstruct them.
- Cathy Kimball   


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