Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Astonishing origami exhibit displays dance of art and science

By William Lee Adams, for CNN
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
In the 1950s, newcomers to origami relied on books with instructions to learn the craft. Today enthusiasts can learn how to fold via Youtube. This may be reducing regional variations in the craft. In the 1950s, newcomers to origami relied on books with instructions to learn the craft. Today enthusiasts can learn how to fold via Youtube. This may be reducing regional variations in the craft.
HIDE CAPTION
Shakti
Elephant
St. Michael The Archangel
Owlets
Red Eyed Frog
Rabbits in Motion
Kiwi
South African Lion
Vole
The fashion dress
Event Horizon
Asymmetry
Nudibranch
Constrained Bowl
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new exhibition in New York showcases the art of origami
  • Those who practice the discipline say it bridges science and art
  • Today, origami artists use software to help them design their intricate creations.

(CNN) -- When origami enthusiast Uyen Nguyen discusses her art, you quickly understand that it is about a lot more than folding paper.

"In many ways it has been therapeutic," she says. "I find the process of folding paper to be almost meditative.

"Origami can be used to create incredibly realistic forms, not just to the likeness of say, an insect, but down to the exact species of that particular insect with proportions of its body segment true to real life. At the other end of the spectrum, you can mold paper to create the most abstract of forms beautiful because of their inherent structure instead of their likeness to real life forms. As someone interested in both science and art, I love that origami bridges the two."

Worldwide movement

Now Nguyen is bringing her passion to the people of New York City.

As someone interested in both science and art, I love that origami bridges the two.
Uyen Nguyen. origami artist

For the exhibition Surface to Structure: Folded Forms, which will take place at New York's Cooper Union from June 19 to July 4, Nguyen has gathered more than 130 works from 88 artists around the world.

The exhibition includes adorable rabbits folded by Malaysian origamist Ng Boon Choon, and a realistic rendering of a field mouse by American Bernie Peyton.

But it also includes "St. Michael -- The Archangel", a more ominous work by Vietnamese origamist Tran Trung Hieu. It shows a winged angel carrying a sword.

The exhibition marks the 55th anniversary of the 1959 exhibition Plane Geometry and Fancy Figures -- the first origami exhibition held in the United States, which also took place inside Cooper Union.

So far Nguyen has raised more than $24,000 of the $32,000 she needs to cover the cost of shipping the works, organizing security and building display cases.

Origami can also be used to make avant-garde fashion creations, such as this one by Czech designer Hana Coufalova.
Courtesy Christopher Bierlein.

Collectively the works demonstrate how origami artists are pushing the boundaries of technique and style.

Transcending language barriers

In the 1950s, Japanese organist Akira Yoshizawa helped popularize the art by creating a universal system of diagramming, which involved arrows and illustrations rather than words. His book allowed people across the world to learn the craft and to easily construct pre-existing designs.

But today artists have moved beyond that, with many using software that helps them dream up and then fold their elaborate works.

In many ways it has been therapeutic. I find the process of folding paper to be almost meditative.
Uyen Nguyen. origami artist

"Most origami involves folding one sheet of paper into some final form," Nguyen says.

"Modular origami uses multiple sheets of paper, folded into identical units, and takes these units and interlocks them, without cuts or adhesive, to obtain a final form that is usually very angular and representative of geometric solids. A couple of my designs add embellishments onto the surfaces of these polyhedra."

Regional variations in the art are becoming smaller and smaller as more people learn about origami via the Internet.

However, Nguyen says that she observed a few patterns among artists while curating her exhibition.

Vietnamese artists tend to be masters of wet folding, which creates soft, gentle bends rather than sharp creases.

"Their styles can be somewhat minimalist, and there is so much beauty in their simplicity," she says. "The Japanese tend to be more calculated and precise with their folding, which can allow for a huge amount of detail and complexity. I think the European style of origami lies somewhere between these two extremes."

Read more: Origami -- a perfect blend of math and art

Read more: Amazing technicolor coats of Sydney Opera House

Read more: Intricate gems from Malaysia's golden age of jewelry reveal cross road of cultures

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Style
updated 10:24 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Houses that melt, float and flip upside down? Alex Chinneck's playful architecture sparks the imagination and begs for a photo-op.
updated 8:18 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Metro stations get a bad reputation as dark, grimy places where travelers are as likely to catch a communicable disease as they are a train.
updated 9:05 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
How can architecture help a nation cope with traumatic history? An institute designed by Zaha Hadid attempts to find a new answer to the question.
updated 8:43 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Italian photographer Antonio La Grotta has been capturing abandoned nightclubs that are falling apart in typically glamorous Italian fashion.
updated 10:41 AM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Bernhard Lang's aerial photos capture the unexpected symmetry and patterns of common public spaces.
updated 11:41 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
How the disembodied head, which seems to have a life of its own, was spirited into the gem seems to be something of a mystery.
updated 6:15 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Paris Photo again drew huge crowds this year, including actresses, designers, artists and, of course, the photography world's elite.
updated 2:28 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Condé Nast has unearthed portraits of the biggest stars of the 20s and 30s, including Fred Astaire and Greta Garbo.
updated 6:06 AM EST, Thu November 13, 2014
The most "complicated" handmade watch in the world has been sold at auction for an historic $24.4 million.
updated 8:31 AM EST, Tue November 11, 2014
Artists are using a new vocabulary to commemorate lives lost at war. But how do you convey the collective grief of a nation in a single work of art?
updated 8:37 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
Nasir al-mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
It's a side of Iran the rest of the world doesn't normally get to see -- the kaleidoscopic interiors of the country's intricately designed mosques.
updated 9:59 AM EST, Mon November 10, 2014
Illustrator and design educator Laurence Zeegen looks back at the rise of illustration over the last 50 years.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT