Recolecciones: The King Library Public Art Collections

The King Library Public Art Collections "Recolecciones" is the Spanish word for "recollections" -- as in "memories." It also means "harvests" or "gatherings." The Latin root "LECT-" from which "recolecciones" derives means both "to gather" and "to read": the ancient Romans seem to have envisioned reading as a process of gathering up scattered bits of information (the letters of the alphabet) and combining them into meaningful sequences. Readers are thus gatherers, harvesters. The library is a place where people come together to recall and reformulate their common heritage, a place designed for "re-col-lection," that is, etymologically, "reading or harvesting again together." The library's public art collection is primarily designed to support this function.

As part of the City's ongoing commitment to the arts, the San José Public Art Program commissioned artist Mel Chin to create an artwork integrated into the new Martin Luther King Jr. Library. The 33 artworks, sited throughout the library, are designed to pay homage to the Library's book collections. These sculptural insertions are designed to provoke your interest and curiosity, encouraging exploration and circulation throughout the Library. All of the artworks are sited to surprise you and add to your sense of mystery and wonder. They are site-specific, their adjacency imbuing the piece with additional layers of meaning.

The artworks vary from large and dramatic statements to intimate and subtle insertions that may require numerous visits to discover. The Recolecciones artworks include functional installations such as chairs, tables and shelves, as well as wall paneling, sculptural ceilings, curious light projections, and more traditional formal sculpture. Some of the concepts are invested with a sense of humor, while others are designed to encourage contemplation.

At the very least, we hope these works delight you.

About the Artists

Mel Chin Art CollectionsMel Chin is an internationally recognized artist, known for creating artworks in a broad range of media and scale, including objects, temporary installations and permanent public artworks. Since the 1970s, Mel Chin has produced artworks that join cross-cultural aesthetics with complex ideas including art that addresses political and ecological issues. Mel Chin's artistic process is highly collaborative in nature; he has worked with biologists, psychologists, geologists, medical doctors and television producers.

Mel Chin's chief collaborators on the Joint Library project are Haun Saussy, Chair of Comparative Literature and Professor in the Departments of Asian Languages and Comparative Literature at Stanford University; Robert Batchelor, Assistant Professor of History at Georgia Southern University; and artist James Millar.

Mel Chin's methodology also involves an extensive process of community consultation and participation. Through collaborative community forums, the artists facilitated discussions on a wide spectrum of personal and civic issues that served to inspire the artwork concepts for Recollecciones. In some cases, artworks are the implemented form of creative concepts delivered by talented students of San Jose State University and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City. These discussions involved participants who voiced multiple points of view and exhibited a diverse range of race, age and socio-economic background.