A captivating white, arcing sculpture fills the center of the room, abstract shapes reminiscent of lanterns cover the ceiling, one wall is dotted with three-dimensional koi, the wall running parallel features several apparently pixelated images of a hand. All these works of art are made from the same material: paper.
“Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami” reimagines and breathes new life into the ancient Japanese art of folding paper. The exhibit, on display at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture through July 15, features nine artists showcasing a variety of works with themes ranging from the personal to the political.
“This is the first time that an international exhibition on origami has come to the United States. The fact that these are international artists from different backgrounds doing very unique things with paper; I think it’s special.” said Carol Summers, the MAC’s marketing and communications director. Those who may remember origami only as a childhood craft are in for a surprise when they see the complexity and intricacy of each work in the collection.
Israeli artist Miri Golan has three works displayed in the collection, each one commenting upon the theme of unity between different religious traditions. One of the works, “The Sharing of Holy Books,” features two books with the pages extending toward and interlocking with one another. Golan is the founder of the Israeli Origami Center, which uses the Folding Together project to unite Israeli and Palestinian children living in the Jerusalem area. “She is trying to use the shared folding of origami to bring people together,” Summers said.
Golan is married to Paul Jackson, another artist featured in the exhibit. Jackson’s work features images of his hands while he is practicing origami. These images are then folded to create new images which provide a commentary on the many different ways individuals can appear to ourselves and others.
Origami is an art with direct links to science, mathematics and architecture. Many of the precise folds used in origami create patterns that correlate to mathematical equations. These equations have real world applications, such as helping scientists and car manufacturers to figure out how to fold car airbags into the vehicle more effectively. Origami can also help biologists understand the complex process of protein-folding, leading to the identification of improperly folded proteins, which can lead to disease.
Artists Robert Lang, Erik Demaine, and Martin Demaine are prime examples of this intermingling of art and science. Lang was previously a physicist for NASA and has created two pieces for “Above the Fold,” “Vertical Pond” and “Pentasia.” Erik and Martin Demaine are a father-son team based in Canada and the U.S. Martin, an artist, and Erik, a scientist, unite their worlds by using mathematical calculations to create their signature “Curved Crease Sculptures.”
Jiangmei Wu’s eye-catching, “Ruga Swan” uses the Yoshimura pattern, used by architects to create a structurally stable arc.
Yuko Nishimura, a Japanese artist who also studied architecture, created large wall-hanging works that take into account the aspects of light and shadow, and play with the idea of how these two elements can work together. Richard Sweeney used computer-aided design and computer numerical control in the creation of his hanging piece “Column.”
Vincent Floderer, an artist from France, reimagined the classical box pleat in his hanging installation, “Unidentified Flying Origami,” by crumpling, dampening, and stretching the origami paper.
For Summers, this idea of art and science joining forces fits especially well within the Spokane community. “Given that Spokane is becoming more of an entrepreneurial city, (the exhibit) is inspirational aesthetically but also how could you use this in technology or some other manufacturing application? I think different people will take different things away from it,” she said.
To complement “Above the Fold,” the museum will also be showing award-winning documentary “Between the Folds,” which highlights the artists and scientists who work with origami.
“Above the Fold” is curated by Meher McArthur and tour organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.