Art doesn’t have to be serious and austere. One look at Jimmy Kuehnle’s work makes that point abundantly clear.
Kuehnle’s sculptures consist of oversized, colorful architectural and organic forms made of inflated vinyl-coated polyester fabric—contemporary art equivalents to the bouncy house.
For the Akron Art Museum, the artist plans a bright red inflatable artwork that will fill one of the galleries and spill out into the lobby, inviting visitors to interact with it. ‘Wiggle, Giggle, Jiggle,’ by Jimmy Kuehnle, opens Thursday, Aug. 25 at the Akron Art Museum and will engulf the gallery space, creating a maze that can be explored and even touched.
Akron Art Museum Director of Education Alison Caplan said, “Jimmy’s work invites viewers to engage with it. There’s a sense of wonder and play involved that attracts audiences of all ages. We’ve wanted to have an artist completely transform our Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation Gallery space for a long time and we’re excited to see how visitors react to it.”
Humor and a sense of play are key components of Kuehnle’s work, which he creates to respond specifically to the spaces they inhabit. Some of his sculptural works consist of immense inflatable suits with bulky, colorful appendages and architectural structures that the artist wears in open spaces, engaging with passersby, bumping into objects and buildings as he goes.
Other sculptures activate and even gently mock architectural space by cramming bright, flexible shapes of inflated fabric into every nook and cranny. And other works spill out organically from rooms and galleries that are created with right angles and rigid geometry. Kuehnle’s recent solo exhibition at the Hudson River Museum in New York was reviewed in the New York Times.
Describing his artwork in a recent short film, Kuehnle said, “I try to find the line between the spectacle and the absurd. If I can make something that you can’t quite put into a category, well maybe you’re going to think, maybe there’s going to be a short circuit and then a genuine interaction with you can occur.
“The sculpture will fill the Corbin Gallery with 17 inflatable rectilinear prisms hanging down from the ceiling,” Kuehnle said. “Each of the prisms will have a series of LED bulbs inside that will all blink, at times in unison and other times in random patterns controlled by an Arduino. The sculpture will extend out of the Corbin Gallery into the lobby of the Akron Art Museum. There will be two sculptures that will appear to connect right at the fire door separating the galleries. The sculpture in the lobby will fill the glass area above the main entryway, extending across the registration desk to the balcony ledge above. Two large appendages will be moving up and down as they fill with air and expel it. The lobby sculpture will be illuminated at night.”
Kuehnle teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art. In 2014 he was selected for the national survey exhibition “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now” at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. He is a 2008 Fulbright Graduate Research Fellow. In 2016 Kuehnle received a Creative Workforce Fellowship. The Fellowship is a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture. Funding for the Fellowship program is made possible by the generous support of Cuyahoga County residents through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.
For info, visit www.akronartmuseum.org.