Folding at its finest

From room-size installations to small creatures, paper becomes the fantastic in three origami exhibits at the Woodson Art Museum


A vertical koi pond by Robert J. Lang covers an entire wall, shown here behind a paper sculpture by Erik & Martin Demaine.

Two-dimensional paper is transformed into stunning three-dimensional sculptures—including large scale installations—in three origami exhibitions currently on view at the Woodson Art Museum.

     These aren’t the small origami paper cranes you made as a child. A variety of paper types—corrugated board, washi, textured “elephant hide” paper, digital prints and more—are transformed using various techniques, including dampening, stretching, folding, pleating, and twisting.

     Above the Fold features the work of nine international artists that highlight the extraordinary potential of contemporary origami. Curated by Meher McArthur and organized by International Arts & Artists, this is the first traveling exhibition to bring origami installations from around the world to North American audiences, so it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.

     Some of these pieces even share a political message, like Miri Golan’s “The Sharing of the Holy Books.” You’ll see pages of the Torah and the Quran reaching out to each other and joining.

     Jiangmei Wu’s piece “Ruga Swan” wows viewers as it takes up nearly an entire room. The large-scale geometric and mathematical artwork appears very rigid with its triangular shapes, but the way it twists and turns makes it look unbelievably flexible at the same time.

     “Unidentified Flying Origami” by Vincent Floderer looks very whimsical, with many objects hanging from the ceilings throughout the exhibit. He uses crumpled and inflated paper to create multi-layered forms that look like floating and flowy sea urchins and jellyfish.

     The father and son team of Erik and Martin Demaine fold, pleat and bend paper into sculptural forms. In their piece “Together” the green paper arcs, bends and twists into a curvy, wavy sculpture.

     A highlight of this exhibit is “Vertical Pond II” by Robert J. Lang. An entire wall of the gallery is covered in a vertical koi pond of 60 fish made of folded custom-made Origamido paper. The way the koi are arranged has the spontaneity and naturalness of actual swimming fish, making it very delightful.

     You’ll be so impressed with Robert J. Lang, you’ll be excited when you head downstairs to FaunaFold to see it’s an exhibition of only his work. Considered one of the world’s leading origami artists, Lang is renowned for his complex, life-like origami figures of insects, birds and other animals. An artist and physicist, Lang is a pioneer of the merging of origami with mathematics and he has consulted on origami applications to engineering designs ranging from air bags to expandable space telescopes.

     All ages can appreciate the super cute animals and other creatures of FaunaFold — bats, deer, a rabbit, a pig and so much more.

     But it’s not all about the cuteness, the art is incredibly detailed and scientific. The animals have eyes, the birds have beaks and you can even see the insect’s antennae. It’s also a rather colorful exhibit as the creatures were folded from colored paper—the chameleon is green, the cardinal is red, the raven is black and the butterflies are blue.

     In the larger animals, like the ones featured in “Ghost Deer, Opus 550 & 618,” you can see the folds of the paper more clearly and you’ll notice and appreciate all the work and detail that goes into folding these remarkable pieces.

     If you haven’t gotten enough of Lang’s work yet, he collaborated on some pieces in the small Alchemy Unfolding exhibition upstairs, located through the doors to the left of the reception desk.

     The five sculptures by Santa Fe-based artist Kevin Box—three with collaborators Lang and Michael G. LaFosse — capture the delicate nature of paper folding in metal. The piece “Seed Sower” by Box and LaFosse is a sculpture of a large silver origami squirrel, but instead of being constructed from paper, it’s made of painted cast aluminum.

     “Crane Unfolded, Phoenix Rising, Opus #553” by Kevin Box and Robert J. Lang looks just like someone took a large sheet of paper, made an origami crane, and then unfolded it, showing all the folds that were made to create it. The wrinkly texture makes it look like it was made of paper instead of painted cast aluminum.

     To create the sculptures, Kevin Box established a casting process using paper as the original form for the casting, then he finishes the metal to look like paper by using layers of powered coating and paint.

     It’s astonishing how these pieces are able to capture the texture of paper, complete with crinkles and creases.

     Two of these artists come to the Woodson Art Museum this winter for artist residencies, where you can have the opportunity to learn about their art through presentations or create with them during workshops. See Jiangmei Wu Jan. 18-19 and Robert J. Lang Feb. 22-23. For a full schedule of events and to register for workshops visit

All three origami exhibitions are on display at the Woodson Art Museum thru March 1, 2020. Free admission. Regular gallery hours Tues.–Fri. 9 am–4 pm (until 7:30 pm on first Thursdays), Sat.–Sun. noon–5 pm. Closed Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1. 715-845-7010,