The Taubman Museum of Art will present the special banner exhibition, “Play: Toys Reimagined as Art” highlighting artists who use toys to create delightfully transformative experiences for “the kid in all of us.” Play features site-specific installations and sculptures by six artists working in diverse media from crayons to building blocks and inflatables.
The ticketed exhibition is on view Sept. 10, 2017-Feb. 18, 2018, with a member-exclusive preview day Saturday, Sept. 9.
“With its highly interactive and engaging artworks and related activities created especially for families, Play focuses on the similarities between how children and adults experience various playful habits of invention, such as curiosity, imagination and problem solving,” said Amy Moorefield, deputy director of exhibitions and collections.
Artistic processes tied to notions of play have historically attracted various 20th-century artists such as avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp, surrealist Salvador Dali, and Fluxus group artists such as Yoko Ono.
Harkening back to those artist traditions revolving around gaming and play activities, the artists in Play use toys as a medium to continue to explore how play helps us engage with the world around us by inviting us to be playful, a constant and lifelong activity.
Florida artist Jason Hackenwerth, known for his organic and biomorphic forms made from latex balloons, is inspired by the iconic sculptures and mobiles of past artists such as Alexander Calder, yet made playful by his use of balloons as a medium. “Balloons are accessible and they seem to have a magic ability for people to feel joy,” said Hackenwerth.
Miami-based sculptor Billie Grace Lynn’s interactive inflatable sculptures spark discussion and raise awareness about environmental and conservation issues through her depiction of life-size elephants. She models her large inflatables on white elephants, considered sacred animals in Asia where possession of one was considered a display of massive wealth and spiritual blessing, but also required expensive upkeep. Lynn compares this dilemma to our current environmental predicament, commenting that our practices are “too expensive to sustain, yet too precious to surrender.”
Artist and chemist John V. Muntean experiments with LEGO sculptures that play with light and shadow. Made with thousands of LEGO bricks and illuminated with a light, the sculptures—which at first glance look like bulky distorted shapes—turn on a spinning axle and produce different shadow figures such as an elephant, unicorn, and triceratops.
LEGO toys inspired British artist Jon Rolph to make stop-animation films using LEGO blocks such as in “Paint,” in which Rolph paints an iconic Piet Mondrian painting with LEGO-made paint, paintbrushes, and a palette, all on a LEGO canvas.
The nostalgic sculptures created by Lexington, Kentucky-based artist and architect Jason Scroggin are reminiscent of multiple generations’ favorite toy, wooden building blocks. They engage visitors by creating recognizable objects out of the blocks such as life-sized bears. Visitors also can lounge on his Cloud Garden featuring yoga balls as clouds and green carpeting as grass.
Nashville-based sculptor Herb Williams is one of the only independent buyers in the world who maintains an account with Crayola. He melts the colorful wax sticks into fantastically large sculptures using up to several hundred thousand crayons. Bizarre and yet familiarly nostalgic, Williams’s massive sculptural installations present exotic animals and birds in their native environments.
Play: Toys Reimagined as Art explores the work of artists who borrow from play and games to reveal social, environmental, and cultural issues. From playfulness to mathematical strategy, the artists in Play create experiences that often involve the viewer and reflect on the nature of participation in art.
The exhibit is curated by Amy G. Moorefield, Taubman Museum of Art deputy director of exhibitions and collections, with assistance by Eva Thornton, Taubman Museum of Art curatorial coordinator.
For additional information, visit TaubmanMuseum.org