Speculative Portraits

April 9–September 5, 2022
Floor 7

From DNA to human emotions, Speculative Portraits explores how contemporary artists are drawing from technology and scientific research to expand on ideas of portraiture and identity. Spanning from digital animation to sculpture, this focused presentation brings together select works by Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Rhonda Holberton, Mika Tajima, and Gail Wight.

Installations include Tajima’s Human Synth (Los Angeles) (2019), a projected animation that mines social media feeds and displays the collective sentiment in the mesmerizing form of digital smoke, and Hershman Leeson’s Room #8 (2006–18), a major new acquisition that marks the culmination of the Bay Area artist’s investigation into custom antibodies and synthetic DNA. The exhibition also marks the 20th anniversary of Hershman Leeson’s SFMOMA web project commission Agent Ruby (1998–2002), which invites us to chat online with an artificially intelligent character.


Header Video: Mika Tajima, Human Synth (Los Angeles), 2019 (installation view); collection Mihail Lari and Scott Murray; © Mika Tajima, courtesy Pace Gallery; photo: Flying Studio, Los Angeles.

Presenting support for Speculative Portraits is provided by The Norah and Norman Stone Fund for Exhibitions of Contemporary Art.

Generous support is provided by Debbie and Andy Rachleff.