The delicate nature of folded paper meets the massive stature of metal sculpture during Origami in the Garden May 7 – October 16 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
The traveling exhibition features 18 installations of nearly 70 larger-than-life sculptures inspired by origami – the centuries-old Japanese art of folding paper – created by Santa Fe artists Jennifer and Kevin Box in their largest outdoor display to date. Throughout the Midtown garden, look for massive sculptures – made from paper and wax fabricated into cast-metal pieces – of flying birds, emerging butterflies, blooming flowers, grazing deer and other flora and fauna themes.
A highlight of the exhibition is Kevin Box’s most ambitious work, “Master Peace,” a 24-foot-tall monument in Howell Fountain depicting 1,000 stainless steel origami peace cranes, recognized worldwide as a symbol of peace. The monument is composed of 500 cranes, while the other 500 are scattered around the world in individual collections and represented in the exhibit by reflections in the fountain’s pool of water below.
“The beautiful metaphor of origami, for me, is that it all starts with a simple, uncut square,” he said. “That’s a great metaphor for life; what we do with that is really what defines us. Every fold has a consequence, just like every decision in your life.”
And that’s how the husband-and-wife team begins any sculpture – folding a single, uncut sheet of paper. Through a 35-step, 12-week-plus “lost-wax casting technique,” they apply wax to folded paper and create molds of individual shapes that are welded together to fabricate sculptures that are cast in bronze, aluminum or stainless steel – a process Kevin Box spent years developing for capturing all the intimate details of folded paper.
Created in 2013, Origami in the Garden elevates origami to a new scale so that the delicate art form is approachable; visitors are encouraged to examine closely the folds in the metal that replicate the folds in the paper.
Another highlight of the show is “Inside Out,” an educational exhibit in Gardenhouse Gallery that features original paper models and unfolded wall hangings by nationally and internationally renowned origami artists, showing the internal architecture of each piece.
Kevin Box, whose background is in papermaking, printmaking and graphic design, said that staging the show in a public garden is a natural fit for his work. “Origami is made from paper, paper is made from plants, so in a lot of ways that ties into a botanical garden’s mission,” said the artist, who spent part of his early career working in an Atlanta foundry.
The environmentally-conscious artists use recycled metal in the majority of the casting process for the sculptures, all of which are 100 percent recyclable.
The exhibition features the Boxes’ own compositions as well as collaborations with world-renowned origami artists Robert J. Lang, Michael G. LaFosse and Beth Johnson.
“Origami animals, blooming flowers, crumpled ideas and innovative abstraction are all themes that inform the surface of my work,” Kevin Box said. “Every piece has a title, a reason and a purpose in contributing to the story I am telling beneath the surface. Motivating the content of the work are my concepts of truth, my philosophy of chaos and consciousness, creation and evolution, the process of creativity and relationships, and responsibilities to one another.”
Origami in the Garden, included with regular Garden admission, also can be enjoyed during evening hours at Cocktails in the Garden when the sculptures are dramatically lit.
Guests can get a taste for the exhibition from a new sculpture on loan to Midtown Alliance at Peachtree and Tenth streets. “Conversation Peace” features the unlikely combination of rock, paper and scissors, symbolizing, Box said, conflicting forces that have found balance.
For more information, visit atlantabg.org and outsidetheboxstudio.com.
For news releases and high-res images, visit the media site at atlantabg.org/media. The mission of the Atlanta Botanical Garden is to develop and maintain plant collections for display, education, research, conservation and enjoyment. The Garden is located at 1345 Piedmont Ave. NE. For more information visit atlantabg.org or phone 404-876-5859.