SOFT POWER provides a strong voice to those previously unheard

Sophia Rocha

SOFT POWER is about a generation of artists who are preoccupied with, or at least considering, their role in society and the potential of art,” Eungie Joo, curator of contemporary art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), said. 

SOFT POWER, a collaborative new exhibit at the SFMOMA, features pieces from 20 international artists all collaborating to popularize the idea that a country’s “soft” assets, like culture, are actually more influential than politics or economics. The general theme of SOFT POWER emphasizes the power of art and the influence that it can have on the world. 

“They’re All Afraid, All Of Them, That’s It! They’re All Southern! The Whole United States Is Southern!” by Xaviera Simmons questions the viewer’s notions on racial injustices in our modern world.

The artwork of Xaviera Simmons really sparked my interest as soon as I walked into the room. It is a huge installation, so her artwork demands to be heard and the message it gives brings even more awe to the viewer. Simmons expertly uses overwhelming language in order to portray the legacy of racial oppression that remains in our society to this day. 

“I guess I’ve lost the ability to censor myself. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of years really trying to understand the construction of the place that I live in… I’ve been confronted with reality for a really long time,” Simmons said. “I’m comfortable speaking to white people… But I’m also uncomfortable, and I think everybody should be uncomfortable.”

While looking at the piece and reading the words, I couldn’t help but feel an intense sadness for the people in America who have to deal with racial issues every day. It struck me in a way that I had no idea art could.

“A Timeline of Undocumented Migration, the DREAM Act, and DACA” captures the viewer with it’s bright yellow and pink contrast, but in reality tells a much darker story of immigrant struggles in America.

Another piece that really stood out to me was “A Timeline of Undocumented Migration, the DREAM Act, and DACA.” Knowing young people who are currently struggling to maintain citizenship, this one hit home for me. With a combination of legal facts as well as anecdotes of those grappling with their own efforts at gaining citizenship, this timeline both informs and evokes an emotional reaction. 

LaToya Ruby Frazier, another artist that contributed to the exhibits, feels that we can all connect with immigrants and indigenous people.

“What’s so important about this exhibition is that there are so many various entry points, whether that be socially, culturally, politically, economically or geographically. I think what we’re all trying to deal with is just perpetual displacement,” Frazier said. “We have nowhere to go. Every time you move somewhere else, you’re being taken away from it again, whether it’s from the environment, politicians, redlining or rezoning. There’s always something keeping us nowhere. We’re permanently displaced.”

In a series of photos as well as physical artifacts, Minerva Cuevas examines the path that immigrants take in order to cross the Rio Grande, the natural border between Mexico and the United States. 

“Crossing the Rio Bravo” by Minerva Cuevas challenges political and social norms by depicting the treacherous journey immigrants must take in order to arrive in the United States through the southern border.

No matter what your political stance may be on immigrants in the United States, this art exhibit is an incredibly intriguing way to examine the stories that are, more often than not, left untold. If you’re looking for something to do, considering visiting SOFT POWER at the SFMOMA. If you’re under 18 and bring some form of identification, you get in free of charge and can enjoy the art for all of its potential.


In addition to SOFT POWER, the SFMOMA is also opening a new exhibit Richard Mosse: Incoming. Mosse attempts to document the mass migration of people in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He uses a special military-grade camera that captures an image using heat-vision to create an incredibly fascinating effect.

Richard Mosse: Incoming creates its own ambiance in a small, dark room with surrounding sound installations and bright black and white videos.


When walking into the dark exhibit that contains Richard Mosse: Incoming, I was bombarded with a curious noise coming from the back room. An eerie video displayed migrant children play-fighting, depicting the conflict between immigrants and the countries they are living in. The military-grade camera only added to my sense of uneasiness, the thermal contrast of the children’s faces spooking me a bit. Nonetheless, I can say I left the room feeling a little more relaxed, and a lot more interested in checking out more of Mosse’s artwork in the future.

SOFT POWER and Richard Mosse: Incoming will be open for the public to enjoy from Oct. 26 until Feb. 17.