The Exploratorium is partnering with art and design blog Colossal to populate the museum with massive inflatable works of art that encourage questions and expand awareness.
*The photos in this press release are works by the featured artists but are not images from the exhibition at the Exploratorium. Print-quality photographs of Inflatable: Expanding Works of Art will be available in the Inflatable Google Drive folder the week of May 28th.
Fantastic Planet by Amanda Parer. Photo: Parer Studio.
SAN FRANCISCO (April 15, 2018) - This summer, hundreds of thousands of visitors will walk through the doors of the Exploratorium to find it inhabited by a different kind of visitor: massive, inflatable works of art. The renowned San Francisco museum is partnering with art, design, and visual culture blog Colossal to present a summer blockbuster worth traveling for: Inflatable: Expanding Works of Art, May 26 through September 3. The exhibition will present a curated selection of large-scale, inflatable artworks by emerging and mid-career contemporary artists, distributed throughout the museum floor alongside the 650+ exhibits that demonstrate scientific and natural phenomena.
Staying true to the Exploratorium’s vision of a world where people think for themselves, and can confidently ask questions, question answers, and understand the world around them, the summer exhibition is an opportunity for visitors to interact with massive artworks inspired by the natural world that encourage questions about our relationship to it.
Artwork by Pnuehaus. Photo: Cassidy Batiz.
“We don’t charge an additional fee to access our temporary exhibitions,” says Alice Krasinski, Director of Public Space at the Exploratorium. “In this case the artworks will be dispersed throughout the museum almost like visitors themselves. One minute you’ll be peering through a magnifying glass to study the magnetic properties of black sand and the next you’ll be standing next to an immense glowing humanoid. Both experiences challenge us to consider our perceptions, and our relationship to the world.”
Pisces by Jason Hackenwerth. Photo: Jason Hackenwerth.
Even visitors familiar with the Exploratorium will see the space in a new way. Museumgoers will be able to enter an inflatable multi-lensed camera obscura that feels like stepping into the compound eye of an insect. Massive crouching inflatable humanoids will fill the building from floor to ceiling, making the West Gallery feel at times like a dollhouse. And visitors will feel they’ve entered a microscopic biological world thanks to a balloon artwork inspired by organic forms that will be constructed onsite, to deflate almost imperceptibly throughout the summer in a process that gestures toward biological decay. The exhibition includes existing works by Amanda Parer and Pneuhaus, and site-specific installations by Jimmy Kuehnle, Shih Chieh Huang, and Jason Hackenwerth. All of the works explore the boundaries of their medium, whether it’s the inclusion of technology to breathe life and movement into inanimate materials or the complex and beautiful forms created with ordinary latex party balloons.
The artists featured in Inflatable are using the medium to explore the world around them and their relationship to it, and encouraging visitors to do the same. Many reference a tension in their work or a desire to repurpose everyday objects in order to see the world differently. Visitors to the exhibition will contemplate the possibilities of combining art and science and the various and unexpected forms our world can take.
Artwork by Shih Chieh Huang. Photo: Steve Briggs / Worcester Art Museum.
Exhibition Curator and Colossal Editor-in-Chief Christopher Jobson explains: “Despite their whimsy and colorful appearance, these artworks are meant to push the viewer into unfamiliar territory. The pieces are easy to photograph, touch, and observe, but the inquisitive can choose to explore further: ‘What is this? How does it work? Why is it here?’ The emotional impact is often immediate, while patient curiosity is rewarded with an even deeper understanding of what each artist is attempting to communicate. The Exploratorium serves as the perfect venue for Inflatable, as it is an institution dedicated to asking questions and questioning answers.”
The exhibition opening is Saturday, May 26, and members of the press are also invited to the Members-Only Opening Preview on May 25th, from 6–9 PM. Send an email to email@example.com to request access.
Launched in 2010 by writer and curator Christopher Jobson, Colossal is one of the largest visual art, design, and culture blogs on the web reaching an audience of 2–3 million visitors every month. They pride themselves on celebrating the work of both established and emerging artists across a vast field of creative endeavors, featuring 5,000+ articles on fine art, crafts, design, animation, photography, street art, illustration, and architecture. They also explore the beauty of the natural world at the intersection of art and science.
About the Artists
Florida-based artist Jason Hackenwerth explores what he describes as “universal biology”—twisting, amorphous structures shared by many living things. Using hundreds of elongated party balloons, he twists and weaves them in elaborate patterns. Hackenwerth avoids bright, “balloon animal” colors in favor of more organic hues. Dark browns and reds give way to bright greens and yellows, symbolizing growth and decay.
Shih Chieh Huang
Taiwanese artist Shih Chieh Huang begins his creative process with humble materials—plastic bags, small fans, and even pieces of garbage. He then tinkers with lights, switches, and other electronics to make these objects breathe, move, and react to their environment. Huang visited the Exploratorium in 2009 and 2010, bringing smaller works and experiments, such as Organic Concept, made from a fan and a plastic painter’s tarp.
Ranging from absurd inflatable suits to architectural subversions, Jimmy Kuehnle’s inflated artworks engage his audiences with a playful sense of the unexpected. “I try to find the line between the spectacle and the absurd,” he says. “If I can make something that you can’t quite put in a category, then maybe there’s going to be a short circuit and you’ll have a genuine interaction.” Kuenle’s art emphasizes the encounter, encouraging visitors to touch, squeeze, and play with soft masses of air.
Australian artist Amanda Parer’s edgy and ephemeral artworks explore the natural world, its fragility, and our role within it. San Franciscans may remember Intrude, her collection of gigantic rabbits, which invaded Civic Center Plaza in 2016. The piece commented on the problem of feral rabbits as a destructive and invasive force in Tasmania.
Pneuhaus is a design collective based in Rhode Island, whose members—Matt Muller, Augie Lehrecke, and Levi Bedall—work in the fields of temporary structures, spatial design, and contemporary art to create large, immersive environments that relate to human perception and scale. Their past creations have included domes with fabric prisms in RGB colors, and pneumatic masonry structures, with inflated interlocking spheres contained by a webbed harness.
CALENDAR EDITORS TAKE NOTE:
Exploratorium, Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street)
May 26 – September 3
Step inside and wonder at gigantic, fantastical air-filled artworks at Inflatable. Spread across our indoor and outdoor galleries, these ephemeral sculptures include otherworldly organisms by Jason Hackenwerth and Shih Chieh Huang, a “forest” of cushiony columns by Jimmy Kuehnle, an inflatable “insect-eye” room from Pneuhaus, and Amanda Parer’s monumental humanoid figures peeking around corners. Fueled by the whimsy and lightness of balloons, the artists of Inflatable have infused their creations with a technology, scale, and creative complexity that expands our vision of what contemporary art can look like.
Friday, May 25, 2018 • 6:00–9:00 p.m.
Exploratorium, Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street)
Free for Daytime and After Dark members
Note: Daytime and After Dark members only. Tickets are required for this event, and they will be available in late April.
Join us for an evening celebrating you, our Daytime and After Dark members. Be among the first to explore, play, and wonder at gigantic, fantastical artworks in Inflatable, our summer exhibition. Born out of thin air, these dynamic sculptures include otherworldly organisms, a “forest” of cushiony columns, an inflatable “insect-eye” room, and more. Experience Inflatable while enjoying one-night-only Store discounts and fascinating programs. More details to come.