The Paper Sculpture Show

  • The Paper Sculpture Show, installation view, Regina Gouger Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, 2003.

  • The Paper Sculpture Show, installation view, Orange County Museum of Art, 2004.

  • The Paper Sculpture Show, installation view, Orange County Museum of Art, 2004.

  • The Paper Sculpture Show, installation view, Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, 2003-04.

  • The Paper Sculpture Show, installation view, Austin Museum of Art, 2006-07.

  • The Paper Sculpture Show, installation view, Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, 2003-04.

Curated by Mary Ceruti, Matt Freedman, Sina Najafi

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



Mary Ceruti

Mary Ceruti is the Executive Director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN. Before joining the Walker in January 2019, Ceruti served for 19 years as the Executive Director and Chief Curator of SculptureCenter in Long Island City, NY. During her SculptureCenter tenure, she spearheaded two major building projects, including a $5 million capital campaign in 2014. Mary has organized dozens of solo and group exhibitions of contemporary art, and curated special projects and commissions by more than 50 emerging and established artists, including Nairy Baghramian, Sanford Biggers, Monica Bonvicini, Alejandro Cesarco, Liz Glynn, Leslie Hewitt, Mike Kelley and Michael Smith, Katrín Sigurdardóttir, Xaviera Simmons, and Mika Tajima, among many others. Prior to SculptureCenter, Mary worked as an independent writer and curator with various arts institutions and agencies, including the San Francisco Arts Commission and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. From 1992-1998, Mary served as the Director of Programs at Capp Street Project, an acclaimed international residency program where she commissioned large-scale, site-specific installation projects in San Francisco by artists such as Janine Antoni, Mona Hatoum, Gary Hill, Cildo Meireles, and Fred Wilson. She began her career as a Curatorial Assistant at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Mary holds a dual BA in Philosophy from Haverford College and in Art History from Bryn Mawr College. She received her MA from the Inter-Arts Center at San Francisco State University after pursuing an in-depth study of community-based public art projects. Mary helped establish the Long Island City Cultural Alliance, was formerly on the Board of Directors of the Long Island City Partnership, and has served on numerous cultural advisory boards, including the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee and the Park Avenue Sculpture Committee.

Matt Freedman

Matt Freedman (1957-2020) was an artist, performer, writer, curator and teacher based in Ridgewood, Queens. He organized or co-curated shows at SculptureCenter, FiveMyles Gallery, Long Island University and PS1-MoMA, among other places. He and Tim Spelios performed the ongoing Endless Broken Time percussion, drawing and talking performance series at Studio 10 and other venues since 2014 His graphic memoir Relatively Indolent but Relentless was published for Seven Stories Press in 2014.  He taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Sierra Nevada University.

Sina Najafi

Sina Najafi is editor-in-chief of Cabinet magazine and executive editor of Cabinet Books. Najafi has curated or co-curated a number of exhibitions and projects, including “School of Death” (Pompidou Center, 2016; Family Business, 2013), “A Collector’s Album of Traitors, Traders, Translators and Experientialists” (Sharjah Biennial, 2011), “The Bubble” (Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2010), “Jaime Davidoich: The Live Show!” (Cabinet, 2010), “The Museum of Projective Personality Testing” (Manifesta 7, Trento, 2008), “Sivan vs. Finkielkraut,” (Documenta, 2007), “Philosophical Toys” (Apex Art, 2005), and “Odd Lots: Revisiting Gordon Matta-Clark’s Fake Estates” (White Columns and Queens Museum of Art, 2005). Together with Jeffrey Kastner, he commissioned and edited the twenty-four essays in the catalogue for the 2013 Venice Biennale exhibition “The Encyclopedic Palace.” He is currently working on an exhibition on string as an artistic medium and, together with Joann Warsza, on an exhibition on Warren Niesluchowski and ontological homelessness.


touring schedule

Kresge Art Museum
East Lansing, MI, United States
January 14, 2007 - March 10, 2007

Austin Museum of Art
Austin, TX, United States
November 18, 2006 - January 28, 2007

Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH, United States
August 18, 2006 - November 5, 2006

Atlanta Contemporary Art Center
Atlanta, GA, United States
January 28, 2006 - March 25, 2006

Purdue University Galleries
West Lafayette, IN, United States
October 24, 2005 - December 4, 2005

University of Virginia Art Museum
Charlottesville, VA, United States
June 18, 2005 - August 14, 2005

Coral Springs Museum of Art
Coral Springs, FL, United States
June 3, 2005 - July 29, 2005

Legion Arts
Cedar Rapids, IA, United States
March 16, 2005 - May 8, 2005

Art Interactive
Boston, MA, United States
February 19, 2005 - March 27, 2005

Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester
Rochester, NY, United States
February 5, 2005 - March 27, 2005

Dunlop Art Gallery
Regina, Canada
September 11, 2004 - October 31, 2004

Salina Art Center
Salina, KS, United States
June 9, 2004 - August 4, 2004

Orange County Museum of Art
Newport Beach, CA, United States
February 14, 2004 - April 18, 2004

The Ballroom
Marfa, TX, United States
January 16, 2004 - March 16, 2004

Gallery 400, University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, IL, United States
January 12, 2004 - February 21, 2004

Hunter Museum of American Art,
Chattanooga, TN, United States
December 6, 2003 - February 1, 2004

Contemporary Art Center of Virginia
Virginia Beach, VA, United States
October 30, 2003 - January 4, 2004

Houston, TX, United States
September 11, 2003 - November 7, 2003

Regina Gouger Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA, United States
September 8, 2003 - October 14, 2003

Long Island City, NY, United States
September 7, 2003 - December 7, 2003

NEW YORK, NY 10013
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