“Sonya Rapoport: Biorhythm” at San José Museum of Art – Opens Feb. 7, 2020

Sonya Rapoport: Biorhythm
February 7th – July 5th, 2020

Opening Reception: 5 – 9pm, Friday, February 7th, 2020
Featuring Computer-Mediated “Audience Participation Performance”

Free Admission!

San José Museum of Art
110 South Market Street, San José, CA 95113

Open Hours: Tuesday–Sunday, 11am–5pm

The Sonya Rapoport Legacy Trust is thrilled to announce Sonya Rapoport: Biorhythm, a solo exhibition at San José Museum of Art, curated by Kathryn Wade.

Please join us for an Opening Reception: 5 – 9pm, Friday, February 7th, 2020. This event will feature an interactive recreation of Sonya Rapoport’s computer-mediated installation and “audience participation performance” Biorhythm (1983).

Sonya Rapoport, Biorhythm Calendar: May, 1980, 1980. Multimedia collage on continuous feed computer printout vellum on found calendars with grommets and plastic spines, 31.75” x 45.25”. Estate of Sonya Rapoport.

In 1984 artist Sonya Rapoport imagined a future fantasy world in which we consult computers to assess how we feel. Using data gathered at her 1983 interactive performance at WORKS/San José, Rapoport created a fictional computer program that could dictate participants’ moods. The Computer Says I Feel . . . (1984) was the third phase of the multiyear project Biorhythm (1980–86), for which she collected and analyzed personal data through both self-assessment and technology-based calculation. Using then-popular biorhythm computers to measure and plot users’ emotional, physical, and intellectual states and comparing the data to personal accounts—including verbal statements made by performance participants and her own diarylike pictorial collages made daily over the course of a year—Rapoport charted the correlation between computed and personal assessment. Her Biorhythm project questions the reflex that cultural theorist Jeanne Randolph described: our primary assumption about technology being that it works.

Rapoport’s early exploration of computer-human interaction suggests an enthusiastic but ambivalent relationship to technology. The artist’s career-long interest in linkages between systems and the self incited her pioneering computer-based practice, as well as work with symbolic language, data collection, and the aesthetics of scientific and computer data representation.

Sonya Rapoport, Koch II, 1972–74. Spray acrylic and graphite on canvas; 72 × 96 inches. Estate of Sonya Rapoport.

In the 1960s Rapoport created a personal iconography with stencil shapes influenced by reproductive anatomy models and botanical drawings. Using spray acrylic and graphite, she layered her icons with grids and sinuous lines that she adopted from found survey charts and medical imagery. She produced large-scale paintings like Beginning (1974)—now in SJMA’s permanent collection, having been shown in a solo exhibition at SJMA the year of its completion—and drawings made on computer printout paper to explore feminist themes and synthesize knowledge from disparate fields such as chemistry, politics, and psychology.

Sonya Rapoport: Biorhythm focuses on a decade of rapid transformation in the artist’s practice—from that first SJMA exhibition to her interactive performances. Charting the transition from abstract painting to computer-based work, the exhibition considers the artist’s prescient exploration of computer-collected and -analyzed personal data and its aesthetic and cultural implications.

Sonya Rapoport: Biorhythm is supported by the SJMA Exhibitions Fund with a contribution from Hildy Shandell Beville and Ross Harwood Beville.

Text by Kathryn Wade, Assistant Curator, San José Museum of Art
Sonya Rapoport, Biorhythm: Postulate and Performance (detail), 1981. Plotter print, pencil, colored pencil, colored type, acetate collage on translucent continuous feed vellum 34 pages in 2 folios, each 11 x 11.75 inches. Estate of Sonya Rapoport.

See also the SRLT Research Page, which includes scans of primary source documents related to Biorhythm.