Barring Freedom at San José Museum of Art

October 30, 2020- April 25, 2021

Image of a large concrete wall
Maria Gaspar, On the Border of What Is Formless and Monstrous, 2016

Barring Freedom explores our nation’s troubled history of mass incarceration and policing. In response to the more than two million incarcerated individuals, the majority Black or brown and predominantly from poor communities, the artists in Barring Freedom creatively confront the historical and racialized biases within the criminal justice system and the economic and social problems that the system serves to obscure.

In the last forty years, the number of people in prisons, jails, and detention centers in the United States has grown by 500%. One out of every twelve families in the country is directly impacted. Yet, for many who have not been directly affected by policing and incarceration, this societal shift has happened largely out of sight, buried within national debates around history, racism, law, and order. The artwork in Barring Freedom makes visible the social harm done by the prison system, particularly to Black lives, and the profound failings of national promises of freedom and equality. But the future is not without hope. As these histories and experiences of oppression are shown as not natural, normal, or inevitable, space for envisioning a future beyond the prison emerges.

As Covid-19 ravages its way through prisons, jails, and detention centers, and uprisings across the country respond to the violence wrought by police on Black lives, it is with renewed urgency that Barring Freedom brings together artists who re-imagine the possibilities of justice for all in the United States. Barring Freedom underscores the importance of art to highlight and inspire reflection about these challenges and emphasizes the critical roles artists play in envisioning new worlds built on true equality.

Barring Freedom is co-organized by UC Santa Cruz Institute of the Arts and Sciences and San José Museum of Art. It is curated by Rachel Nelson and Alexandra Moore.

Artists: American Artist; Sadie Barnette; Sanford Biggers; Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick; Sonya Clark; Sharon Daniel; Maria Gaspar, Ashley Hunt; Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman; Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts; Deana Lawson; Sherrill Roland; Dread Scott; jackie sumell; Hank Willis Thomas; Patrice Renee Washington; Levester Williams.

Barring Freedom is supported by the SJMA Exhibitions Fund, with contributions from Glenda and Gary Dorchak and Rita and Kent Norton. The exhibition is made possible with generous support from the Nion McEvoy Family Trust, Ford Foundation, Future Justice Fund, Wanda Kownacki, Peter Coha, James L. Gunderson, Rowland and Pat Rebele, Porter College, UCSC Foundation, and annual donors to the Institute of the Arts and Sciences.

Programs at the San José Museum of Art are made possible by generous support from the Museum's Board of Trustees, a Cultural Affairs Grant from the City of San José, the Lipman Family Foundation, Yvonne and Mike Nevens, Facebook Art Department, the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Adobe, Yellow Chair Foundation, the SJMA Director's Council and Council of 100, the San José Museum of Art Endowment Fund established by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and The William Randolph Hearst Foundation.

Beginning October 30, 2020, SJMA will be open 3 days a week, Friday through Sunday, 11am–5pm.


110 South Market Street
San José, California 95113


(as of March 9, 2019)

$10 Adult
$8 Senior 65 and over
Free Teacher* with ID
Free College student* with ID
Free Youth* 7-17
Free Members

*SJMA is pleased to offer free individual admission for youth, college students, and teachers with valid ID.

To ensure the safety of visitors, volunteers, docents, and staff, SJMA has devised a comprehensive health and safety plan that is compliant with Santa Clara County Health Department and CDC guidelines. Please review these changes before you visit and thank you for helping us make your Museum visit easy, enjoyable, and safe. We will carefully and continually monitor the efficacy of these guidelines in real time and make further adjustments as needed.



Visitors ages 6 and up are required to wear a face mask.

Social distancing of 6 feet must be practiced by all visitors except members of the same household. Hand-washing and/or sanitizing is requested before and after touching your face and/or public spaces. Coat check will be closed. Large bags and backpacks are not permitted in the galleries. And remember, if you’re feeling ill, please stay home.


SJMA has implemented a dedicated hour of each day for our most vulnerable guests to enjoy the Museum. We invite seniors, those who are pregnant, and those with underlying health concerns as determined by CDC guidelines, to visit SJMA Friday–Sunday, 11am–12pm.


To reduce physical contact, SJMA encourages purchasing tickets in advance, or using a credit card upon arrival. To expedite the check-in process, reduce lines at admissions, and assist with “low touch” entry, please have your e-ticket pre-printed or ready to be scanned on your phone. Have your ID ready for tickets requiring ID.


To allow for proper social distancing, SJMA staff and security will monitor the number of visitors in and out of our galleries and other public spaces.

Galleries will be clearly marked with signage to indicate traffic flow to reduce visitor jams.

Floor signage has also been implemented, indicating where visitors should stand while waiting: to be checked in, to enter the elevator, the Store, etc.


Only a single household or individual may ride the elevator at a time, again with signage indicating where visitors should wait. Additionally, there will be hand sanitizer outside the elevator; and we encourage all visitors to sanitize their hands after pushing the button.


Cleaning frequency has been increased with special attention to high-traffic and high-touch areas. Doorways, buttons, etc. will be disinfected throughout the day.


To reduce high-touch point areas, our interactive educational resource spaces are temporarily closed. Interactive installations are also suspended.


The Museum Store will have dedicated doors to entry and exit. It has also been reconfigured so that there is a single direction throughout the shop, preventing accidental crowding.


To reassure you that we consider the safety of all visitors and staff a priority, we have instituted one-way use of doors, stairs, and paths. Rooms will only be used if social distance rules can be adhered to. Common-use areas will also be marked with waiting spots to ensure a 6-foot distance. Shared-use items such as the copier will be wiped down after every use. Hand sanitizer dispensers are available in several areas throughout the Museum for visitors and staff. Museum staff in direct contact with visitors will maintain safe distances in all spaces while wearing face masks. Further, we have installed Plexiglass screens at the admissions desk to serve as an additional protective measure for visitors and staff.

If you have any questions or concerns about visiting the Museum, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at If you have questions about Covid-19 and would like more information, please check the CDC website.