Bedford Gallery's fanciful 'Blow Up'
By Lou Fancher
Sit on the floor and allow imagination to run wild like a child's.
Use an average 5-year-old's vantage point and mindset to view "Blow Up," the Bedford Gallery's exhibit of air-filled art through June 21.
Lower perspective -- and higher creative thought -- reveals dichotomies: Are the two pink 16-foot-high bunnies in Momoyo Torimitsu's "Somehow I Don't Feel Comfortable" escapees from a giant's Easter basket -- or tragic, Leporidae twins, crammed in an alcove?
Is Billie Grace Lynn's "White Elephant" a nylon parachute in the form of an elephant -- or a ghostly reminder of hundreds of animals killed by poachers seeking only their ivory tusks?
And will a visitor looking at the Buddha of Lewis deSoto's "Paranirvana" see either a friend in repose, or tragic loss when loved ones die or icons fall?
The large-scale sculpture exhibit includes international artists like Andy Warhol (his pillowy, mobile "Silver Clouds" float overhead) and a video documentation of inflatable works by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. And there's Guy Overfelt's 17-foot-long "Smokey and the Bandit" Trans Am.
"Inflatables have roots in wartime and in the commercial world, but in the 1960s, artists pulled these materials into the studio and transformed them into something completely new," says curator Carrie Lederer. "The trend continues today with artists creating inflatable work that ranges from conceptual and abstract to figurative."
Lederer says she was certain the exhibit's national roster of artists and range of artistic processes would appeal to the East Bay community, but was pleasantly surprised by the broader reaction.
" ... The response was very positive. The show's diverse artistic statement intrigues people. Some of the works are humorous and playful, while others are ethereal or political," she says.
The exhibit will take off on a two-year national tour in September.
The art arrived in cardboard boxes or heavy duty plastic bins and is one of the lightest load-ins in the Bedford's history. Most of the artists work with nylon or canvas tarpaulin, although the accumulative impression is one of plastic.
Bounce houses inspired Claire Ashley's three psychedelic pieces that bring to mind 1960s tie-dye. "Live Rock," created by Lee Boroson, spills in an organic display of an underwater landscape, while Patrick Flibotte's "Inflatable Superheroes" dominate one gallery wall.
Viewing the exhibit easily fits into a preshow or intermission visit while attending an event at the Lesher Center.