The City Arts Center bursts with 'Cocoon,' a knot-so-typical exhibit by a New York sculptor 

Jason Hackenwerth
5:30 p.m. Friday Opening reception
On display through May 22
City Arts Center
3000 General Pershing

Even when inflated by a fine arts association, balloon twisting still brings to mind images of crudely crafted pink poodles. But New York-based sculptor Jason Hackenwerth thrives on the limitations of balloons as art, not only with the party toy's cultural implications, but also its fleeting nature.

"The work is very temporary; there really is no way to preserve the pieces, and even if I could, I don't know that I would want to," Hackenwerth said. "During the course of the exhibition, viewers can visit the exhibition time and again and watch the sculptures change and transform during the month the show is up. Like flowers, they will wilt."

He will bring about 22,000 balloons to Oklahoma City for his sculptures, which have towered as high as six stories. He said that for City Arts, there will be multiple pieces throughout the show that, in one way or another, will play into the exhibition's title, "Cocoon."

"The theme of the show is about transformation, and I wanted to create an exhibition that wouldn't only be about transformation, but I hope create an experience that feels transformational as they move from one part of the exhibition to the other," he said.

Hackenwerth's previous projects include solo and group exhibitions across the world featuring sculptures that seem to be alien floral arrangements or vibrant creatures sprouting from coral reefs. Many of the relatively lightweight sculptures are installed to hang from the ceiling. He anticipated needing seven to 10 days to inflate and assemble the pieces for the City Arts exhibit, which remains on display though May 22.

Although he admitted to starting with little balloon animals early in life, he never really seriously considered balloons as an art form until he made a sculpture for his graduate school professor as a pseudo-joke. After moving to New York City, Hackenwerth made several sculptures, placed them in subways and watched for commuter reactions. One impressed commuter invited Hackenwerth to London for the Scope Art Show, and he's been doing balloon sculptures ever since.

In the interest of earning more respect for his inflatable art form, Hackenwerth is more selective these days about what projects he takes on, having turned away jobs re-creating minivans for car manufacturers and bottles for soft-drink empires.

Because the pieces have such a short shelf life, there will be no Hackenwerth sculptures for sale at City Arts. For him, his art is more about the experience of seeing the otherworldly sculptures in real life.

"There is a real difference between seeing it in a magazine and seeing it in the exhibition space," he said. "I do hope that people move through the exhibition space and that they experience something that will change their perception of what they might expect from a gallery. I hope that it will allow them to disconnect from their normal lives and bring them into a different type of experience." "Charles Martin

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Charles Martin

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