Paul McCarthy’s installation in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of LAURENT FIEVET/AFP/Getty Images
Tam Wai Ping
This last decade in art has turned out a ton of larger than life sculptural work, specifically in the realm of inflatable sculpture. As adults, we never seem to get over the pure bliss of bouncy houses from our childhood, and as art lovers we are drawn to these works, made from thin plastic that are able to tower over us once filled with air. Artists have used this medium to make shocking and conceptually multilayered statements, such as Paul McCarthy’s “Complex System,” a building-sized pile of poo that made international headlines when it deflated in Hong Kong this past spring, leaving behind quite the brown mess. Other artists have merged inflatable sculpture with architecture and infused it with an interactive element that takes the classic “bouncy house” into a sophisticated architectural wonderland, such as Alan Parkinson (also known as “Architects of Air”) has done with his Luminaria. Other artists included below are: David Byrne, Eder Castillo, FriendsWithYou, Florentijn Hoffman, Chad Person, Tam Wai Ping and Geraldo Zamproni.
This Labor Day Weekend, enjoy the following parade of images that reviews some of the most exciting and celebrated inflatable sculptures that have emerged within the past ten years.
Legendary artist Christo‘s newest project, Big Air Project, is more than just big. Even ‘huge’ would be an understatement. At nearly 300 feet tall Big Air Package could possibly be the largest indoor work of art ever. Housed in a venue that was once a gas holder, the project is exactly as its title describes it. Big Air Package is a massive inflated cylinder with no hard underlying structure – a giant balloon. The project’s press release explains how it functions:
“Two air fans creating a constant pressure of 27 pascal (0.27 millibar) keep the package upright. Airlocks allow visitors to enter the package. Illuminated through the skylights of the Gasometer and 60 additional projectors, the work of art creates a diffuse light throughout the interior.” [via]
Inflatables have had an important place in Max Streicher’s work since 1989. In most of his sculptures and installations he has used industrial fans and simple valve mechanisms to animate sewn forms with lifelike gestures. His use of light and papery materials, like Tyvek (and more recently nylon spinnaker), have been significant to the character of their development, specifically to his focus on movement. The weightlessness of this material allows it to respond with surprising subtlety to the action of air within it. Streicher uses air to animate his work because it provides an effortless naturalism. It not only looks right, it feels right, recollecting our sensation of breath.
Inflatables are the medium of enchantment, fantasy and optimism, but things do go wrong. Take the Hindenburg, for example. Macy’s Parade balloon characters occasionally crash into the crowd. In Streicher’s work the distress behind the whimsy takes different forms. Scale is one factor. The giants, for example, are intended to overwhelm. In contrast to similar commercial counterparts, they are out of control. They appear to struggle, but why and to what end? However that sense of disruption is read also depends on what the individual viewer brings to the work. For some, gasping for breath, endlessly straining to rise, portray an image of playfulness, and even resurrection, while for others it is distinctly an image of torture. Both cases however involve physical empathy, a bodily recognition of the elemental—powerful and tenuous—forces that animate us all. (via)