Studying Surface to Structure: Folded Forms

Surface to Structure is an “innovative” origami exhibition held at the Cooper Union. The exhibition comprises works by international artists who challenge the traditional Japanese art of folding origami by manipulating the paper to create unexpected patterns and shapes. The pieces were grouped by the curators into various categories, e.g. origami-inspired fashion and tessellation-inspired origami. An aspect of Surface to Structure that I enjoyed was that it invited me to figure out the precise techniques the artists used in developing their work. One piece was particularly interesting: Stacked Pleats, created in a collaboration between a photographer, Christine Dalenta, and Benjamin Parker, an origami craftsman. Parker made the origami component, and Dalenta took the negative of that and deconstructed it using special photography paper. The outcome was an image of something like an x-ray of a ribcage, and that was juxtaposed against the original origami piece by Parker in the exhibit.

Slightly disappointing, though, was the similarity in the use of paper in this show to that in 2009’s exceptional Slash: Paper Under the Knife survey at the Museum of Art and Design. The exhibits paralleled each other closely; both sets of contributors to each exhibit maneuvered the material for out-of-the-box experimentation. Excluding Stacked Pleats and some of the tessellation pieces, Surface to Structure was weak in terms of being truly groundbreaking; there was much left to be desired and, juxtaposed against what’s been done before, it felt stale.

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