September 12, 2022

The San Diego Museum of Art to Open Chapel of the Rocks by Justin Sterling

The first large-scale, solo show for the artist explores urban decay and questions faith

SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Museum of Art presents Chapel of the Rocks, an exhibition by New York–based visual artist Justin Sterling on view October 29, 2022 – February 12, 2023. The first solo museum show for the artist, Chapel of the Rocks is a space dedicated to exploring conversations on protest and “bad faith”, a term used by existentialist philosophers to describe the act of rationalizing our decisions or actions through a biased belief system.

Utilizing the built environment as his medium, the artist is installing over 30 broken and mended stained-glass windows into a 1,000-square-foot chapel custom-built within the Museum. Before taking their place within the chapel, each window was found in the street, then a rock was thrown in the studio, then each shard of broken glass was painted and puzzled together as stained glass.

Sterling explains: “We look at fallen shattered glass on the ground as an impossible, unmendable enigma that can never be whole again. I want my action of fixing this broken glass back together to be a metaphor for our lives, that everyone has the possibility to heal—all that is needed is an entry point and a purpose to begin the process.”

In addition to the windows, the chapel’s construction features many other repurposed elements from city streets, such as fire hydrants, traffic cones, and more; each chosen and given utmost care.

“It has come naturally to me to collect neglected objects and attempt to recycle them,” Sterling states. “I choose to recycle an object based on its metaphorical or institutional significance, attempting to give them new life and reclaim them from their socio-political censor.”

Visitors are encouraged to sit inside the chapel and experience light refracted through the broken windows. Space will also be offered for visitors to reflect and record their thoughts. Sterling takes inspiration from the Rothko Chapel in Houston and hopes to bring the same spiritual inclusivity with Chapel of the Rocks by carefully selecting works from the Museum’s collection to act in dialogue with the chapel.

“We are excited to host Justin Sterling’s first show of this caliber at The San Diego Museum of Art and introduce the artist to the region,” said Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director and CEO at The San Diego Museum of Art. “This immersive exhibition offers visitors an extraordinary opportunity to reflect on the way they view the world through Sterling’s thought-provoking pieces.” 

Justin Sterling: Chapel of the Rocks is curated by Anita Feldman, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Education at The San Diego Museum of Art. The exhibition will be complemented by a variety of programming and event elements, including an Art of Elan concert on November 9.

About The San Diego Museum of Art

Providing a rich and diverse cultural experience, The San Diego Museum of Art houses some of the world’s finest art. Located in the heart of Balboa Park, the Museum’s internationally renowned collection of more than 20,000 works–dating from 3000 BC to present day–includes Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings including the Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Indian paintings, East Asian art, American art, and Modern and Contemporary paintings and sculptures. The Museum regularly features major exhibitions of art from around the world, as well as an extensive year-round schedule supporting cultural and educational programs for children and adults. It hosts engaging experiences that invite visitors to explore art through music, dance, film, food, and so much more. The Museum also offers Virtual SDMA, a variety of online experiences, including the SDMA app, Masterpiece Minute podcast, virtual performances in collaboration with other local arts institutions and more. At The San Diego Museum of Art, exhibition text is always in English and Spanish.

The San Diego Museum of Art is located at 1450 El Prado in Balboa Park, San Diego, Calif., 92101. General Information, (619) 232-7931, Group Sales: (619) 696-1935, Website: Twitter: @SDMA, Instagram: @SanDiegoMuseumofArt Facebook: