23 No. 6
publication of the International Sculpture Center
Island City, NY
The Paper Sculpture Show
Jane Ingram Allen
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Sculpture Show, installation view, 2003.
All of us have probably
made a few paper airplanes or tried our hand at origami, but this innovative
exhibition The Paper Sculpture Show lets loose 29 contemporary
artists to come up with inventive ways you can turn ordinary sheets of
paper into sculpture. The curators of the exhibition are SculptureCenter
Director Mary Ceruti, artist Matt Freedman, and Cabinet magazine Editor-in-Chief
Sina Najafi. Their choice of artists includes many who are well known
such as Janine Antoni, The Art Guys, Nicole Eisenman, Rachel Harrison,
Glenn Ligon, Cildo Meireles, Sarah Sze, Fred Tomaselli, and Allan Wexler.
Most of these artists seem to enjoy exploring the realm between two- and
three-dimensional art in this new way. Each artist created a design for
making a sculpture out of paper using basic materials and every-day techniques
such as cutting, folding and pasting. This interactive exhibition consists
of printed copies of the artists designs which viewers are invited
to assemble and put on display. Most ideas the artists came up with are
quite inventive and produce interesting sculptural forms.
design makes use of the act of crumpling a sheet of paper. Her sheet has
myriad lines and numbers on it so that the viewer can attempt to crumple
the paper in the same way that the artist did originally. This seems pretty
impossible, and most viewers who chose this one seemed to use the paper
in their own inventive way. One very simple yet beautiful idea was a sheet
of midnight blue paper designed by artist Charles Goldman. The instructions
were to use a pin to make holes in it and then put it up so that light
comes through. Viewer-created examples were taped to the glass doors at
SculptureCenter and provided some of the best aesthetic experiences of
the show. Another artist, Aric OBrosey, designed something that
is supposed to look like a baseball glove when folded and pasted together
correctly. This one proved very difficult, and the examples displayed
were creative to say the least. Ester Partegas designed her paper sculpture
as a paper cup/waste can for viewers to throw away the things that they
wrote down on extra scraps of paper. Among the paper sculptures designed
by the artists there were a few one-liners, some purely formal inventions,
and relatively few designs where the depth of the concept seemed to match
the effort required to realize it in physical form. Many of the artists
seemed to approach this idea as a novelty and something fun, but not necessarily
a serious example of their sculptural work.
Things You Don't Like, 2003.
this show truly innovative is that viewers actually make the paper sculptures
that are put on exhibition, raising questions about the nature of the
art object and roles of artist and audience. The Paper Sculpture
Show engages the audience to act as creative partners with the artists.
Viewers can choose the design they want to work on and are free to follow
or not follow the artists directions. Viewers diligently work away
at the work stations in the exhibition designed by artist Allan Wexler.
The work stations are put together from sheets of plywood in the same
way as the paper sculptures. In fact Wexlers work stations may be
the most exciting sculpture in the show.
This traveling exhibition
changes constantly and may be entirely different in a different space
with a different audience and on different days. At SculptureCenter it
was interesting to see the inventive imaginations of so many ndividuals,
but the exhibition can look messy and unorganized. Sometimes you might
even wonder where the art is, since all you see is tables covered with
many colorful pre-printed sheets of paper in various designs and scattered
about on the walls, table surfaces and the floor some of these sheets
cut, folded, pasted and put together. The room looks far more like an
art classroom than an exhibition space.
There seems to be
some attempt at exhibition organization. Certain spots in the room have
been designated for particular finished pieces; however, many people seem
to put their work wherever they like. Some of the most interesting individual
pieces were by people who really did think outside the box
and put several different patterns together or used the paper in their
own unique inventive way. As an art teacher I really enjoyed seeing all
this creativity and how some viewers rebelled against the artists
directions. However, I could see that things could get really visually
chaotic by the end of the three-month exhibition period.
Staff at SculptureCenter
admitted that they had to do some occasional editing of the show. They
try to keep this to a minimum because after all the failed attempts and
the mistakes are part of the idea of the show. When I was there, some
unfinished pieces were scattered about on the tables, a few frustrated
attempts were on the floor and a few apparent failures in
the garbage cans provided. I was told that some people spend hours there
working on their paper sculpture creation. The staff feels that the audience
has been seriously engaged with the exhibition, and that it has succeeded
far more than expected in getting usually stand offish gallery goers to
become actively involved in art. Maybe even New Yorkers need to play.
The show will travel
to several other institutions, and in fact was shown concurrently at DiverseWorks
in Houston, at the same time as SculptureCenter. The exhibition is accompanied
by a full color catalog whose introduction by the curators is in itself
a creative invention. The catalog has examples of all the paper sculpture
designs along with information about each of the artists. With this book
you could make your own paper sculpture show. The book also has a clever
essay by Frances Richard that covers everything from the history of paper
to ruminations from Gertrude Stein. The book is far more interesting than
the exhibition that I saw, so viewers might skip the exhibition and just
buy the book unless you really want to spend some time creating and perhaps
become the star of this show.
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