Joseph Wu, Baby Elephant

Origami Art Show

More of the show

In the Fall of 1998 we had a show of origami at Xerox PARC, with original designs by a number of well-known origami artists. The artists in the show were David Huffman, Tom Hull, Robert Lang, John Montroll, Chris Palmer, Jeremy Shafer, and Joseph Wu. In addition, we had photographs of models by Takashi Hojyo.

Most of the origami in this show, whether abstract or representational, could be classified as "technical origami". Technical origami includes mathematical models such as David Huffman's folded curves, and also representational models, such as Robert Lang's little creatures, that pose and solve difficult folding problems while keeping to more traditional subject matter.

Technical origami is an interesting blend of art, craft, and science. Origami is not usually presented as high art-- artists do not publish books showing how to reproduce their designs!-- and yet origami artists have quite recognizable styles. Compare Wu's expressive baby elephant, Lang's realistic bats, and Montroll's structural cow.

Robert Lang, Bats

The constraints of origami (no cutting, no gluing!) make it appealing to problem solvers. Technical origami can even be competitive. Insect folders one-upped each other in realism and complexity, gradually adding antennas, mandibles, second pairs of wings, and finally colored spots on the wings. A number of paperfolders have worked on the problem of maximizing the size of a folded chessboard, light and dark squares formed from opposite sides of the paper, relative to the size of the original square sheet. The show included a chessboard by John Montroll; we resisted the temptation to unfold it and check the size ratio.

Many technical origami artists have careers in scientific fields. For example, Hojyo is a Ph.D. candidate in biology, Hull an assistant professor of mathematics, Lang a laser physicist, and Huffman a computer scientist and the inventor of Huffman coding.

There is a lot of origami on the Web. Joseph Wu's site has won a number of awards. Another good entry point is Eric Andersen's site. Tom Hull maintains Web pages on the mathematics of origami. The Origami Interest Group at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen has an ftp server with diagrams, technical papers, photographs, etc. Finally, OrigamiUSA has a nice Web site, with a calendar of events and a searchable index of models.

Click here to see more of our origami art show.

This page updated December 1999 /