Today I went to an origami convention.
Specifically, the Origami USA convention, which takes place every summer in New York City. One of my good friends, Matt LaBoone, is an incredibly talented folder who made centerpieces for our wedding. They were so popular, we had to make an announcement in the middle of the reception that people were NOT to take the pieces home, as most pieces were pre-assigned for specific guests to take home after the wedding.
A couple months ago, Matt brought up Sipho Mabona, a Swiss origami artist who happened to be exhibiting at Art Miami (here in New York). The gallery I work for exhibits annually at Context Art Fair (in Miami), which is part of Art Miami, so we took special note of Aureus Contemporary (the gallery which represents Mabona), and made sure to provide feedback on what we saw. The work exhibited was unfolded paper from what was once an origami model - now undone-- framed and exhibited on the walls. You could try and dissect this and find a deep meaning, but there was no underlying concept or message. The work was minimal, simple, and beautiful.
So often, I overhear students, collectors and even artists dismiss work (as an example: Damien Hirst) with "I could do that", or "I don't get it", and "that's stupid." Origami doesn't fall into this category. Yes, some origami enthusiasts do release their designs to the public, and yes, with time, I suppose someone could fold a replica of something quite difficult, but you're telling me that's going to be as easy to replicate as one of Damien Hirst's spot paintings? I would disagree with you there. Origami takes commitment and discipline.
I was amused, and somewhat surprised (although I shouldn't have been) to see the style some origami artists had. As an example, take "Twin Rabbits", designed and folded by Nguyen Hung Cuong. The animals were curvy and uniquely his, not rigid and static - how I feel most models appear.
There were geometric patterns, clothing, pop-culture references and more. In relation to Mabona's gallery-framed work, It was disappointing to see some equally beautiful pieces push-pinned onto a stained wall, carried around in Rubbermaid containers and being touched by unsupervised children. From my gallery-standpoint, these works are worth so much more, and should be treated as such. It's promising that aesthetics and skill (over concept, not that one trumps the other) seem to be coming back into the contemporary art world.
Below are additional photographs from the event. (click to enlarge)
1) My husband Andrew & I with Matt and his girlfriend/our good friend Lynn.
2) A Tardis from the show Dr. Who designed and folded by Matt.
3) A Cactus that took years to complete designed and folded by Robert Lang.
4) Works pinned to the wall at the convention.