Once thought of primarily as an activity for children, origami the art of paper folding has entered the realm of high art. "Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami" examines the variety, beauty and international impact of the form.
The show looks at the history of origami in Japan and Europe, the forms that it takes in contemporary culture and its impact on science, fashion, architecture, design and practical objects such as air bags for cars.
According to Amelia Kit-Yiu Chau, the Crocker's Asian art curator, origami traces back to the sixth century A.D. when paper was introduced to Japan by China. A small folded paper wand in the exhibit resembles ritual objects used by Shinto priests to honor kami, higher spirits that reside in rivers, trees, rocks and mountains.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, samurai were required to fold gift papers in certain ways, which were passed down from generation to generation. That tradition carries on in elegantly wrapped gift envelopes given at weddings, birthdays, and funerals. An example of each is included in the show, as well as pattern books of instructions for folding paper cranes.
Paper cranes have come to be widely recognized symbols of peace inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki, who folded 1,000 cranes in the 1950s. Born in Hiroshima, Sadako was 2 when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. She contracted leukemia when she was 12 and, spurred by the legend that folding 1,000 cranes would grant her a wish, set out to complete such a task.
According to her family she folded more than 1,000 cranes, often using candy wrappers because paper was scarce. Tragically, she succumbed to the disease, and a statue honoring her was placed in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in 1958. One of Sadako's cranes, an infinitely tiny sculpture, has a place of honor in the traveling exhibit at the Crocker.
Origami continues to be used as a medium for expressing wishes for peace. Israeli artist and activist Miri Golan is represented in the show by her powerful conceptual work "Two Books." It consists of two handmade books representing the Torah and the Koran, whose pages spill out in tiny origami figures representing Palestinians and Israelis coming together. It's a moving and miraculously executed work.
Concern for the environment is the theme of American artist Bernie Payton's "Frog on a Leaf." Here he has constructed a tiny tree frog sitting on a rain forest leaf, referencing an endangered species.
Creatures from nature make up many of the works in the show. French artist Eric Joisel gives us a remarkably detailed sculpture of a pangolin, amazingly constructed from a single sheet of paper. Vietnamese artist Hieu Tran Trung displays a meticulously detailed skeleton of a dinosaur. Among the many pieces in the show by Robert J. Lang is a sculpture of a soaring red-tailed hawk and with it a crease pattern for making the origami bird that is as elegant as any geometric abstraction can be.
Many of the works in the show are abstract in nature. Canadians Eric and Martin Demaine offer a stunning work titled "Splash II," which is both geometric and sensually curvaceous. Similarly elegant and sensual is British artist Richard Sweeney's "O3M (Partial Shell)." Lang, too, gives us a stunning piece using mosaiclike tessellations in the radiant circular piece "Hyperbolic Limit, opus 600."
Works in the show range from hyper-realistic pieces, such as American artist Michael G. La Fosse's mica-coated frog, to expressively simple works like Vietnamese artist Giang Dinh's austere praying figure. Some of the geometric pieces are mind-bogglingly complicated, among them Chinese American artist Daniel Kwan's "Six Interlocking Pentagonal Prisms."
The show concludes with a section examining the use of origami in science and other disciplines. Among the pieces on exhibit are a photo of Lang's prototype for the lens of a space telescope, British artist Zhang You's prototype for a heart stent and a photo of a radically modern house in Melbourne, Australia.
The show, which was organized by independent curator Meher McArthur, makes the Crocker its fourth stop on a nationwide tour. Don't miss a chance to see it while it's here.
FOLDING PAPER: THE INFINITE POSSIBILITIES OF ORIGAMI
Where: Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., Sacramento
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday through Sept. 29
Cost: $10 adults; $8 seniors, military and college students; $5 youths 7-17; free for children 6 and under and museum members; every third Sunday of the month is "Pay What You Wish Sunday."
Information: (916) 808-7000, www.crockerartmuseum.org