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New Burning Man art now appearing in Downtown San José


San Jose’s City Hall Plaza was vastly enhanced by the extended visit last year of an interactive art work from Burning Man, Sonic Runway. And now the partnership between Burning Man Project and the Office of Cultural Affairs has brought us two more stunning pieces as part of “Playa to Paseo” partnership.

 Welcome, XO and HaHa, by Laura Kimpton with Jeff Schomberg!

Outside City Hall, we are delighted with the message of love and fellowship represented by the huge XO. And the Hammer Theatre Plaza resounds with the laughter embodied by HaHa.  The works were installed on October 20, and will be in place in San Jose through February 28, 2019.. A celebration for the artworks will be held at Hammer Theatre Plaza on December 7, 2018 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

“We are thrilled to bring XO and HaHa to downtown during the popular holiday season. Iconic, they will engage the thousands of downtown visitors at this time. We invite people to play with art, snap their photos, and enjoy the creative expression they offer,” said Office of Cultural Affairs Director, Kerry Adams-Hapner.

Playa to Paseo is a three-year partnership between the City of San José and Burning Man Project to site temporary artworks throughout San José as an invitation to play, engage, and participate in art-making city-wide. In selecting artwork for the Playa to Paseo initiative, special attention is paid to highlighting works that represent the diversity of art at the annual Burning Man event. Previous work showcased through the initiative includes the high-energy light installation Sonic Runway, the whimsical penny-bear Ursa Mater, and the contemplative mechanical female figure Tara Mechani. The next artworks in the series, XO and HaHa, were highlights of past Burning Man events. HaHa debuted at the most recent event in August 2018 and a twin of XO is currently on view as part of the Smithsonian’s Burning Man exhibition, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man in Washington D.C.

XO
By Laura Kimpton with Jeff Schomberg
Photo by Jeff Song Photography, courtesy Golden Triangle BID

Comprised of large-scale metal letters, XO stands 12 feet tall and the “H’s” in HaHa measure 12 feet and the “a’s” measure 6 feet. The metal letter forms are perforated with bird cutouts. The birds are a visual symbol meant to free viewers from their neuroses, fears, and self-doubt. These monumental word sculptures often evoke varied emotions and interpretations, and can mean different things to different people.

According to Kimpton, XO is a love letter to the community. It is reminiscent of how many of us sign off on letters, emails, and texts. It is what we use to make sure that the people we interact with know our affection and love. In a time of division and strife felt across the United States, XO reminds us to share love and kindness with each other, to help create a world where love is the sentiment connecting us, through our thoughts, words and actions. Its siting in City Hall Plaza is symbolic of local government’s love of San Jose and its community.

HaHa By Laura Kimpton with Jeff Schomberg. Photo by Joe Sale

Kimpton’s HaHa is a celebration of life in tribute to the late Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey who passed away this spring, and loved ones who have departed before us. She says, “It is a reminder to celebrate the time we had with them. To raise our proverbial glass in celebration to all they did to create this wonderful, joyful life we have as part of Burning Man. While their losses are felt keenly and we mourn their parting from this physical life, we know that they, and Larry in particular, liked to revel in the moment, seize the day, and share laughter and fun whenever and wherever possible. Even in the darkest moments, the darkest times, we need to cling to this remembrance of joy and laughter. This sculpture is a reminder, a touchstone, and a celebration.” HaHa’s placement at Hammer Theatre Plaza also speaks to the power of art to bring joy and laughter to people’s lives.

Artist Bios

Laura Kimpton is the conceptual force behind the Monumental Word Series that began back in 2009 at the annual Burning Man art event in Nevada. Works have been displayed at the Sundance Film Festival, the TED Conference, University of California Riverside, the BottleRock Music Festival in Napa, California. Most recently her sculpture, XO, was installed as part of the Smithsonian show celebrating the art and craft of Burning Man. Other sculptures in the Monumental Word Series have been purchased by the City of Arlington, Texas for the Dallas Cowboy’s Football Stadium, the City of Reno, Nevada, the Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa, California, the Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada, the City of West Palm Beach, Florida, and the Grand Hyatt and Apple for San Francisco’s Union Square, as well as several prominent private collections across the country.

 Jeff Schomberg has collaborated with Laura in building and installing her revolutionary conceptual designs. He is a sculptor and installation artist. Leveraging keen fire art skills, his unique style incorporates welded steel, stone and found objects. Schomberg has created all of the letters for the Monumental Word series, and has overseen more than 20 large-scale installations.

 About Playa to Paseo

The partnership between Burning Man Project and the City of San José is intended to call forth to the San José artist community and invite participation in imagining the way that temporary art can invigorate public spaces across San José’s 180-square-mile landscape.

 About Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project, a nonprofit organization, produces the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock City, and works year-round to extend and facilitate the culture that has grown from the event into the larger world. Burning Man Project provides inspiration, connection, education, and grants to a creative ecosystem of builders, makers, artists, and community leaders. Its work spans six interconnected program areas: Art, Education, Civic Involvement, Culture, Philosophical Center, and Social Enterprise. An ever-growing global network supports and furthers these efforts in 44 U.S. states and 37 countries around the world.

Learn more  about San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs art projects and activities.