Lively and unconventional, The Paper Sculpture Show explores the nature of the art object and the identity of the artist. Twenty-nine international artists and artist teams, among them Janine Antoni, E.V. Day, Glenn Ligon, Cildo Meireles, Sarah Sze, and Fred Tomaselli, have each contributed a design for a three-dimensional paper sculpture that is only completed once it has been assembled by museum visitors. The artists’ designs, along with detailed instructions, have been printed on up to four sheets of paper per artist (most are on two sheets), each measuring 10 x 12 3/4 inches. At the onset of the exhibition, 500 copies per sheet of each work are stacked on work tables in the gallery, along with a limited set of tools—such as scissors, utility knife, tape and glue—to be used in the “transformation” of the work. Over the course of the exhibition, the visitors assemble their favorite pieces into paper sculptures right in the gallery. They are encouraged to allow their creations to remain on display after they leave (to be picked up after the show closes), to enable the exhibition to grow and change throughout its presentation. Subsequent visitors have the opportunity to see multiple versions of the same piece, each made unique by the hand of its fabricator.
Interactive, nonconformist and witty, The Paper Sculpture Show raises many questions, among them the following: Who is the author of these three-dimensional objects, the artists who designed them, or the museum visitors who assemble them? If numerous museum-goers utilize the same design, can one paper sculpture be better than another? At what point is a work complete? Which is the original and which the copy? Or, is there an original? Instead of providing answers, The Paper Sculpture Show suggests flexible definitions of a work of art that accommodate the variety of creative practices that now constitute contemporary art and culture. At the same time, The Paper Sculpture Show harks back to long and varied traditions. Precedents come from fine art, design, craft, and mass media including paper architecture, paper airplanes, paper dolls, origami, Mad Magazine fold-outs, exploded machine diagrams and pie charts, Fluxus mail art, the Surrealists’ Exquisite Corpse games, and even the complex systems of workshops and apprentices of the Renaissance.
The projects in The Paper Sculpture Show exploit the nature of this traditional medium to explore contemporary topics. At a time when technology makes anything seem possible, the two works by Janine Antoni and David Shrigley counter this notion by providing exacting instructions for folding the “simple” medium of paper that are impossible to realize (though it’s fun to try!). Perhaps no other medium is better suited than paper to explore urgent issues such as disposability and obsolescence: Proof are Ester Partegàs’s “garbage can” into which one can throw papers listing things one doesn’t like and Patrick Killoran’s “watches” made to be worn and tossed out. Other artists address individuality in the face of mass production: Akiko Sakaizumi creates a plane of paper printed to look like human skin; Sarah Sze takes this opportunity to provide a hand-made coffee cup complete with exchangeable and varied color inserts to suggest different “flavors”—cappuccino, espresso, or latte.
The Paper Sculpture Show renders tangible the issues of authorship, craft, product versus process, and two dimensions versus three dimensions that have surrounded, and continue to pervade, artistic production. In this sense, one may say that there are either 29, or countless, artists in The Paper Sculpture Show, 29 works, or an infinite array.
The exhibition is organized by Cabinet, Independent Curators International (ICI), and SculptureCenter