‘BLOW UP’ at Jepson will inflate your visual art experience

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“BLOW UP: Inflatable Contemporary Art,” an imaginative traveling exhibition of large scale inflatable works, has made its way from the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, CA, to the Jepson Center.  

 “BLOW UP is a showcase of creativity and technology, and each artist has a unique approach to this medium. It will be something new and exciting for our audience,” said Alex Mann, Telfair’s Director of Curatorial Affairs and Chief Curator. 

 The exhibition will be on view at the Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center through September 18 and features inflatable art by well-known contemporary artists and art collectives. 

This year, inflatable art will be presented on a larger scale with works averaging nine feet tall.

“While some pieces are hand-sewn, others are modeled on computers and custom-fabricated, using lightweight and durable synthetic materials to achieve their impressive scale. The results are bold and unforgettable,” said Mann.

Telfair audiences were exposed to inflatable art in 2019 with the exhibition “Summon the Sea: Contemporary Artists and Moby Dick” which introduced new audiences to Tristan Lowe’s massive wool felt, inflatable whale, “Mocha Dick.” 

As with Lowe’s inflatable work, this exhibition will enlighten visitors of all ages to explore new mediums of contemporary art. 

The installations in BLOW UP will encourage the viewer to look beyond the conventional associations of inflatables with balloons, beach toys, and blimps.

click to enlarge TOP (L-R): Lizabeth Rossof (American, b. 1973), 5 XI’AN AMERICAN WARRIORS, 2019 Nylon fabric, electric fans. Sharon Engelstein (Canadian, b. 1965), Seeker, 2012, Nylon fabric, electric fan. BOTTOM: Jen Stark; Cones; 2019; Nylon fabric, electric fans; courtesy of Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts.
TOP (L-R): Lizabeth Rossof (American, b. 1973), 5 XI’AN AMERICAN WARRIORS, 2019 Nylon fabric, electric fans. Sharon Engelstein (Canadian, b. 1965), Seeker, 2012, Nylon fabric, electric fan. BOTTOM: Jen Stark; Cones; 2019; Nylon fabric, electric fans; courtesy of Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts.

“Savannah is a creative city so with these works it was important to show something new and cutting edge for people and artists to explore,” said Mann. 

This show features nine different artists that are working with the medium of fabric, air and machinery to create these works. Some museums are not large enough to display many of these works, but the Jepson Center’s size figured perfectly into the scope of this exhibition. 

This is one of the biggest shows Mann has worked with in relation to size of the pieces being displayed.

“The medium of inflatables has a basic concept and it allows these artists to do works that are on a large scale. They can explore their ideas and  see their work bigger than they normally could and the Jepson Center is a wonderful space to feature this work in,” said Mann.

The international roster of artists and art collectives well known in contemporary art circles includes: Nicole Banowetz, Sharon Engelstein, FriendsWithYou, Joshua Harker, Susan Lee-Chun, Matt Ritchie, Lizabeth Rossof, Max Streicher, and Jen Stark. 

Their works are known for using bold colors, pop culture references, and overwhelming scale to address an array of serious themes, including consumerism, climate change, cultural identity, and mortality. 

Organizers hope that will be evident when walking through the exhibit, captivating the viewer with the scale of the work juxtaposed with the variety of colors and media. 

“When you see this show you will see that all of these concepts and subjects from the recognizable to the abstract are all possible and are coming together from these artists and they are a lot of great pieces to see,” said Mann. 

BLOW UP: Inflatable Contemporary Art is organized by Carrie Lederer, Curator of Exhibitions, Bedford Gallery at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, CA. 

This exhibition is the second iteration of BLOW UP, which was also curated by Bedford Gallery. The presentation of this exhibition at Telfair Museums is designed by Mann.

“I am not an artist myself but when I am looking at works in an exhibit I look beyond the emotional reaction I get from the art and also look at how can I make this work and how it was made and what was the process to make it. I hope visitors will feel that as well,” said Mann.

“BLOW UP: Inflatable Contemporary Art”will be up until September 18. Local residents are encouraged to visit the Jepson Center for free on Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 28. Telfair Museums is waiving admission fees at its two sites on Telfair Square to residents across a six-county region: Chatham, Bryan, Effingham, and Liberty (GA), and Beaufort and Jasper (SC).


About The Author

Kareem McMichael

Kareem McMichael is a filmmaker, documentarian, writer, and multimedia content creator. The Macon native enjoys entertainment, and sharing with locals and visitors’ stories about Savannah’s art and culture scene. When he is not working, he enjoys relaxing at the beach, grabbing a drink, hitting a fun art event,...
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