OK, so, how to describe the incredible, inflatable sculpture at the center of “Nature’s Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown,” on display at the Oakland Museum of California through January …
Well, it’s like when you have a bunch of multicolored gumdrops that went a little melty and gooey in your hand and they got stuck together in a big glob and the glob fell on your Lite-Brite board — which happened to be turned on in your darkened bedroom — and the glob started glowing in fantastic, pulsating colors like something in a beautiful, pleasant, otherworldly dream and …
What — that’s never happened to you?
Anyway, this beautiful blimp of a sculpture — created by Los Angeles-based artists, Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III of the FriendsWithYou collaborative — is just like that, but huge. Really huge. Swelled up to nearly filling the museum’s Great Hall. So big that, if said gumdrops were actual gumdrop size, then you would be the size of an ant next to them. More like the eyeball of an ant. But you would be a happy ant.
And really your ant and/or human happiness is the point. It’s all about elation, wonder and a sense of fun – as the artists’ quote on the entry wall says, it’s “for the joy of everyone.” It’s for sharing this pleasing, pulsating, puffed-up experience with other people. Total strangers, even, who might love massive, sticky gumdrops – or whatever they see in it — as much as you do and will surely post pics all over social media.
“Now more than ever, it’s important to create moments where people have a shared experience,” Borkson says at a media preview Thursday for the sculpture’s world premiere. “People are hurting and feeling strange in their own bodies and minds. But we’re all on this great journey together, metaphysically and spiritually, coming together in this transcendental experience.”
Carin Adams, OMCA’s curator of painting and sculpture — and now inflatables — fell in love with FriendsWithYou’s ability to immerse the visitor in the artwork, physically and emotionally.
“What makes this amazing is the way they build experiences, which are then completed by the audience,” she says. “The sculptures are defined by the people that come together and celebrate them.”
Sandoval and Borkson’s work is internationally known, appearing in outdoor spaces such as plazas and parks from New York to South Korea. This piece, commissioned by OMCA for the exhibit, is the artists’ first indoor work of such magnitude, which presented some challenges.
It’s truly a feat of design — and sewing. The artists 3D modeled the sculpture, engineered the connections of the inflated sections, then sent it to an industrial sewing warehouse. “It’s one of the most complex pieces we’ve done,” Borkson says. “The scale, fitting it into the space, the cycles of the lights all made it quite complicated.”
And this is hardly your neighbor’s inflatable bounce house. For one thing, there’s no bouncing allowed. Well, you could probably bounce – once – but then you’d be banned from the museum forever. A deflating thought, indeed.
But you can touch the sculpture. Walk through the intersecting parts that form arches and tunnels. Or you can view it from the comfort of a hammock or the cush of a green bean bag. And you can even hear it. The experience is accompanied by a reverberating, ambient hum from sound artist Norman Bambi.
“Nature’s Gift: Humans, Friends & the Unknown,”
To expand the experiential aspect, the museum has planned various community programs, such as yoga and meditation held around the sculpture. There will also be events that encourage movement and expression, like curated DJ selections during the museum’s popular Friday Nights @ OMCA events.