Many times the experience of art creates a longing to touch, whether to get a better sense of what it is we are seeing, or simply from a desire to discover what something is made of, or how it was made.
But, whether we are seasoned museumgoers or not, somehow we all know that the art is a “look, but don’t touch” kind of experience. The exhibition “Please Touch,” coming to the Akron Art Museum on March 2, however, offers the added dimension of touch to the traditional museum experience, and asks visitors to explore the work with their hands as well as their eyes.
Akron Art Museum Director of Education Alison Caplan said, “‘Please Touch'” builds upon the recent exhibition ‘Jimmy Kuehnle: Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle,’ which created a maze-like inflatable sculpture in the gallery that visitors could not only touch, but inhabit. For ‘Please Touch,’ we commissioned a group of regional artists whose art had a playful sensibility and we asked them to create new work that would engage audiences of all ages in new and unique ways.”
Inspired by childhood games, puzzles and lift-the-flap books, artists Jay Croft, Jordan Elise and Christopher Lees, and Erin Guido and John Paul Costello are creating touchable artworks that visitors may manipulate as they create meaning out of the pieces in their own way.
Croft, whose artwork has appeared on skateboard decks, and, most recently, a mural at Chill Ice Cream in downtown Akron, was inspired by his children during the creation of artwork for “Please Touch.” “The inspiration actually came from a puzzle that the kids own. I just wanted it to be as fun and hands on as possible. Plus, I always liked the idea of mashing things up and putting things where they might not actually belong,” he said.
Guido, who has created brightly colored shape and text murals in abandoned buildings and other unexpected places, has planned a large sculpture that will have durable, movable pieces. Created with John Paul Costello, “How Are You Feeling Today?” provides viewers the opportunity to manipulate the artwork and share their emotions visually. Guido said, “My favorite part about putting up artwork outside in the public is that it goes from being my own personal art and feelings to something that is anyone’s and everyone’s.”
Wife and husband team Jordan Elise Perme and Christopher Lees are the creators of Horrible Adorables, sculptures of hybrid animals that blend both cartoonish and uncanny qualities. Their sculptures have existed as fine art pieces, home décor and even vinyl toys manufactured by Kidrobot. Elise and Lees envision detailed, engaging landscapes and dioramas for some of the Horrible Adorable characters.
“In keeping with the theme of the interactive exhibit, as well as our playful style of art, we imagined a page out of a lift-the-flap-book that the viewer could interact with. Behind the doors are detailed dioramas and descriptions about each creature; including some of their more quirky attributes,” Elise said.
Caplan said, “We’re excited to present artworks that push the envelope and create a different experience. An important part of art and any creative thinking is giving yourself the place to play and try out ideas, which the artists in ‘Please Touch’ exemplify and which visitors can explore in the exhibition.”
“Please Touch” will be on view at the Akron Art Museum through July 16. The Art Museum is located at One South High St.
“Please Touch” is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by a generous gift from The Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation. Additional support is provided by Brouse McDowell, LPA.
For info, visit AkronArtMuseum.org. Join the conversation on social media with #PleaseTouchArt, and follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.