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 6:46 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
L.A. artist Christine McConnell styles herself as a glamorous pin-up, but her sumptuous cakes evoke the Tim Burton-esque realm of fantasy.
updated 12:51 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
A new generation of creatives are taking code to a more colorful realm, using digital media to push the boundaries of art.
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
From space vacuums to dial-less phones, 50 objects offer a colorful glimpse into daily life behind the Iron Curtain.
updated 11:36 AM EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Every June, 200,000 perfectly styled people attend the Glastonbury Festival, known as much for the music as the glamor on its muddy fields.
updated 7:24 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
What does an acclaimed chef do for an encore after he's closed the best restaurant in the world? Starts looking for the key to all creativity.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
French photographer takes us on a nostalgic trip to the golden age of Hollywood with images of glamorous movie palaces of the art deco era.
updated 4:54 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
BASEL, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 17: Visitor walk next to the artwork 'Continuel Mobile - Sphere rouge' by Michelangelo Pistoletto in the Unlimited section of Art Basel on June 17, 2014 in Basel, Switzerland. Art Basel one of the most prestigious art fair in the world, which runs until the 22nd of June 2014 will showcase the work of more than 4,000 artists selected by 300 leading galleries. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
Over 92,000 people flocked to Art Basel, a top international contemporary art fair, to see works by the likes of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
CNN bring you the latest from the Olympics of architecture, this year directed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas.
updated 7:30 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
After years of research art experts and scientists have found a painting hidden underneath Picasso's 1901 masterpiece "The Blue Room."
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
A convoy of the world's most luxurious supercars drives from England to the Monaco Grand Prix, causing a stir along the way.
updated 12:54 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
This is what happens when seven world-class architects design bus stops in a tiny Austrian village.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
A new exhibition in New York shows that when it comes to the art of origami, it takes a lot more than just folding paper.
updated 2:07 AM EDT, Mon May 26, 2014
Vivid Sydney, a festival of light, music, and ideas, sets the sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House alight.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Atlanta's High Museum of Art is showcasing 17 visionary concept cars worth millions.
updated 5:22 PM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Flamboyant gowns, sparkling jewels and A-list celebrities.
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Mon May 19, 2014
Wealthy Asian collectors propel sales sky-high at the annual art extravaganza.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT