Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Museums within Walking Distance of the San Jose, California Convention Center

Years ago San Jose, CA had the reputation of being the San Francisco Bay Area's very poor cousin. Well, the cousin won the lottery. Silicon Valley happened and the rest is history. Civic-minded investors poured a bunch of money into the area and it shows.

I was recently traveling and spent time at the San Jose, California McEnery Convention Center (150 West San Carlos St. San Jose, CA 95113). A clean and sleek neighborhood of bistros, fountains, coffee houses and museums begins within 100 feet of the McEnery Convention Center. I had a couple of free hours, so I first visited the San Jose Museum of Art. The exhibit Robots: Evolution of a Cultural Icon was fun. It seemed fitting to have this type of exhibit in Silicon Valley and it was an interesting counterpoint to my visit to The Tech Museum of Innovation nearby.

One of my favorite pieces in the Robots: Evolution of a Cultural Icon was Michael Salter's piece, a twenty feet tall robot sculpture made out of styrofoam computer packing material titled, Giant Styro. Salter made the piece specifically for the space. It was whimsical to look at, yet at the same time, realizing just how many styrofoam packing materials are sent all over the world with every computer purchase and the subsequent environmental impact of the computer, it had a bit of a dark edge (maybe medium-gray is a better description). The exhibit covered mostly the playful and toy-like friendly images of robots that are brought to mind in short stories by Isaac Asimov. There wasn't much in this exhibit to do with the postmodern ironic/destructive robot images from movies like Terminator and Robo Cop.

All in all -- I like that the San Jose Art Museum and The Tech Museum of Innovation are so close to each other. In a symbolic way it's as though the civic minded citizens of San Jose are reminding all of us that art and science need each other to create the kind of cities we will want to live in.

And if you have more time, there's the cozy San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles to visit just a few blocks away.

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