Origami Exhibitions Unfolding at the Woodson Art Museum

Erik Demaine & Martin Demaine, Together, 2012, Mi-Teintes watercolor paper, photo courtesy of the artists


Three origami exhibitions, featuring innovative artwork by contemporary artists who transform two-dimensional paper into striking and soaring three-dimensional sculpture, open Saturday, December 7 at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.

'Above the Fold: New Expressions in Origami' comprises bold sculpture, large-scale installations, and conceptual artwork by nine international master folders representing a cross section of contemporary origami artists. Emerging from its roots in traditional Japanese paper folding, origami is a highly sophisticated, global art form. Since the mid-twentieth century, new designs, varied folding techniques – from dampening and stretching, to folding, pleating, and twisting – and complex mathematics enabled folders worldwide to take origami to new heights. Bridging the realms of art and science, origami concepts impact architectural and computer-aided design and are reflected even in our folded DNA. These origami artworks – from floating, organic forms to conceptual book sculptures emerging from the Torah and the Koran, also explore ideas as varied as infinity, sustainable design, and world peace.

Two 'Above the Fold' artists, Jiangmei Wu and Robert J. Lang, will share insights into origami innovations during presentations, a gallery walk, and workshops during artist residencies at the Woodson Art Museum, January 18-19, and February 22-23, respectively. 'Above the Fold,' the first traveling exhibition to bring origami installations from around the world to North America, was curated by Meher McArthur and the tour was organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.

'FaunaFold' features origami creatures by artist and physicist Robert J. Lang, renowned for his complex, life-like figures of insects, birds, and beasts and considered one of the world’s leading origami masters. A pioneer of the cross-disciplinary merging of origami with mathematics, Lang consulted on origami applications to engineering designs ranging from air bags to expandable space telescopes. Two Lang artworks – a koi pond installation and a modular artwork with an infinite crease pattern – appear in 'Above the Fold.' Lang’s work also extends into 'Alchemy Unfolding,' the third origami exhibition at the Museum.

'Alchemy Unfolding' captures the delicate nature of paper folding in metal. Five sculptures by Santa Fe-based artist Kevin Box – three with collaborators Robert J. Lang and Michael G. LaFosse – capture the fragility of paper and symbolize the design potential inherent in every blank page. Box pioneered a thirty-five-step, twelve-week, lost-wax casting process using paper as the original form for casting. He uses bronze, aluminum, and stainless steel to make his sculptures, finishing the worked metal to look like paper, utilizing refined patinas that recall aged parchment.

The origami exhibitions open December 7, 2019 and remain on view through March 1, 2020.

Upcoming Artist Residency Programs

During the two “Above the Fold” artists’ Woodson Art Museum residencies in January and February, Jiangmei Wu and Robert J. Lang share techniques and inspiration for their artworks and the many ways that origami bridges math, science, and technology via design applications.

Origami Illuminations: Jiangmei Wu Artist Residency, Saturday & Sunday, January 18 & 19: Jiangmei Wu’s large-scale, origami-inspired artworks are tangible results of her research into the intersections between engineering, mathematics, technology, and the arts. An assistant professor of Interior Design at the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design at Indiana University, Bloomington, Jiangmei interprets crease patterns to create elegantly engineered public art installations and architectural structures. During her residency, she leads a two-part studio workshop, guiding teens and adults in transforming paper into sculptural pendant lights. During a public presentation, Jiangmei shares her enthusiasm for spatial design and other aspects of her creative, interdisciplinary research. A grant from the B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation supports the Jiangmei Wu artist residency.

Folded Light Sculpture: Teen & Adult Workshop, Saturday, January 18, 10 a.m.-Noon & Sunday, January 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. During this two-part workshop, artist and founder of Folded Light Art + Design Jiangmei Wu guides teens and adults through the process of folding repeated paper patterns to create structural forms that will serve as hanging light pendants. Total fee: $85 for members; $120 for non-members; includes all materials and Sunday lunch. To register, call the Museum at 715-845-7010.

Guest Artist Presentation, Saturday, January 18, 1-2 p.m. 'Above the Fold' artist and Indiana University Interior Design assistant professor Jiangmei Wu’s interdisciplinary approach to art making incorporates geometry, digital design, and sustainable materials to create striking forms in three-dimensional space. Learn how Jiangmei uses math and foldable origami techniques to transform flat sheets of paper into sculptural pendant lights and how she interprets crease patterns to create elegantly engineered public art installations and architectural structures.

Return to the Fold: Robert J. Lang Artist Residency, Saturday & Sunday, February 22 & 23 Master origami artist Robert J. Lang merges mathematics with aesthetics to create mesmerizing forms – both of realistic creatures and modular, geometric forms. Lang, who set aside his day job as a laser physicist to focus on both the art and science of origami, is now considered one of the world’s leading origami masters, developing some of the most complex origami designs ever created.

Lang’s origami artwork, featured in 'FaunaFold' and included in 'Above the Fold,' exemplifies how applying math and computer programming to origami revolutionized this ancient art form. Origami principles are solving engineering design problems, too, through compactly folded airbags and space telescopes that can launch and deploy.

During his residency, Robert J. Lang leads a presentation, gallery walk, and two workshops for teens, adults, and families. He also works with area educators, exploring the principles of STEAM education – integrating science, technology, engineering, art, and math – expressed in the origami exhibitions. Lang guides area educators during their professional development day in ways to incorporate origami projects and STEAM skills and learning into their classroom curricula. He also leads an afternoon session with Weston Elementary fifth-grade students and teachers. A grant from the B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation supports the Robert J. Lang artist residency. Support for Return to the Fold, the Robert J. Lang artist residency, is provided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

From Paper to Steel: Origami in Other Media, Saturday, February 22, 1-2 p.m. During this presentation, artist Robert J. Lang describes his experiences, both technological and artistic, producing origami forms in diverse materials and scales – both on his own and in collaboration with sculptor Kevin Box – from the world’s smallest flapping bird to a 21-foot-tall steel Pegasus.

Origami Gallery Walk, Saturday, February 22, 2:30-3:30 p.m. Join origami master Robert J. Lang for a visit to the “Above the Fold” and “FaunaFold” galleries for his impressions and insights into artwork on view.

Artistic Folding Techniques: Teen & Adult Workshop, Sunday, February 23, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Robert J. Lang guides participating teens and adults through “wet-folding” techniques used to add dimension and definition to origami subjects. Previous origami experience is helpful, but not required. Fee: $35 for members; $50 for non-members; includes all materials. To register, call the Museum at 715-845-7010.

Modular Origami: Family Workshop, Sunday, February 23, 2-5 p.m. Explore the genre of modular origami with guest artist Robert J. Lang. Participants will fold and interlock multiple pieces of paper to create a three-dimensional polyhedra, a solid geometric figure consisting of multiple flat planes. Previous origami experience is helpful, but not required. Participants younger than age 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Fee: $35 for members and adult/child pairs; $50 for non-members and adult/child pairs; includes all materials. To register, call the Museum at 715-845-7010.

For program details, check the events calendar.

Programs Make Exhibition Connections

Museum programs for all ages will bring to life themes, artistic styles, and techniques from the origami exhibitions and the Museum’s collection exhibitions. In Art Park – the Museum’s interactive family gallery – all ages explore and create paper sculpture using origami folds, hand-held crimpers, and a variety of papers. Also, learn more about origami and crease patterns via the Museum’s free Activity Guide, designed for use by all ages, in the galleries and at home.

During Art 101: Above the Fold Gallery Walks, on Thursday, January 2, 5:30-6:30 p.m., and again on Wednesday, January 15, 12:15-1 p.m., join Museum educator Catie Anderson for stories and conversation about Above the Fold artworks and multifold design applications.

See Team USA Snow Sculptors at work on Crystalizing Origami, Saturday and Sunday, January 18-19, Noon-5 p.m. Mike Martino, Tom Queoff, and Mike Sponholtz – inspired by Kevin Box’s and Michael G. LaFosse’s sculpture – work wintertime wonders during their 30th year creating snow sculptures at the Woodson Art Museum.

Learn more about paper types, origami techniques, and papermaking during programs presented in December and February by Museum staff and a guest artist.
• Art Park Open Studio, Saturday, December 7, 1-3 p.m. All ages drop in to engage in easy origami folding, celebrating “Above the Fold.”
• Art 101: Paper Types & Techniques, Wednesday, December 18, 12:15-1 p.m. From dampening and crumpling to pleating and twisting, Museum curator of exhibitions Shannon Pueschner highlights the distinct origami techniques and variety of papers featured in “Above the Fold” and “FaunaFold.”
• Art 101: Handmade Paper Artistry, Thursday, February 6, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Artist and University of Wisconsin-Madison Design Studies professor Mary Hark discusses the fine craft of hand papermaking. Sharing examples of handmade papers – made from linen and cotton textiles, bio-waste, abaca, flax, and other materials – from her own practice and collected from other makers over many years, Mary’s presentation includes images of her production papermaking practice and hand-papermaking project in Ghana, West Africa.
• Art 101: Handmade Papers, Wednesday, February 19, 12:15-1 p.m. Learn about the varied materials used to make handmade papers, and try papermaking with help from curator of exhibitions Shannon Pueschner and educator Catie Anderson.

Additional Programs for All
• During Art Park Open Studio on the first Saturday of each month, 1-3 p.m., all ages drop in for hands-on art making inspired by artwork on view in the galleries.
• SPARK! programs for individuals with memory loss and an accompanying friend or family member on the second Thursday of each month, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, offer social interaction in the galleries, followed by a hands-on art activity; call the Museum at 715-845-7010 to register.
• During Toddler Tuesdays on the third Tuesday of each month, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, little ones, 18 months-4 years, and accompanying adults drop in to sample art making and interactive play in Art Park.
• Art Babies, Art Time for Tots, Art 4 You, and Art Kids programs are offered in late January and February; check the online events calendar for details and call the Museum at 715-845-7010 to register.
• Art Beyond Sight, on Saturday, February 29, 10:30 a.m.-Noon, is designed for individuals with low vision and blindness. Participants join Museum educators for a multisensory visit to the galleries followed by hands-on art making inspired by origami artwork on view. Call the Museum at 715-845-7010 to register.

For specifics and registration details about these and other programs, check the online events calendar.

The Woodson Art Museum is located at Franklin and 12th Streets in Wausau and is open Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the first Thursday of each month from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is always free. For more information, visit www.lywam.org or call 715-845-7010.


Above the Fold was curated by Meher McArthur and the tour was organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C. FaunaFold and Alchemy Unfolding were organized by Woodson Art Museum curator of exhibitions Shannon Pueschner and the respective artists, Robert J. Lang and Kevin Box.

BMO Harris Bank is the presenting sponsor of the origami exhibitions. Additional educational support comes from Sandy Ott. Exhibitions and programs are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Marketing supported in part by City of Wausau Room Tax funds. Support for hands-on art-making supplies comes from Wilmington Trust and the M&T Charitable Foundation. A grant from the B.A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation supports the Jiangmei Wu and Robert J. Lang artist residencies. Support for Return to the Fold, the Robert J. Lang artist residency, is provided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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