It’s not marble, it’s not bronze, but it is sculpture ─ bright and bouncing. Jimmy Kuehnle’s inflatables are exciting art form and witty commentary on our interests and enthusiasms.
From June to September, Kuehnle’s inflatables invade the Hudson River Museum’s limestone Victorian home, Glenview, and the Brutalist concrete spaces in its modern wing, mushrooming in the galleries. The sculptor, who at times can be found inside his huge and popular costumes inflated by 12-volt motor blowers, says, When you’re inside an inflatable, the lack of 90-degree angles and natural architectural forms makes for a surreal experience.
Kuehnle also turns his creativity and mechanical know-how from costumes to site-specific installations that activate the space around them. Massively scaled, these sculptures are put in the way, so you must push and prod past them, as you ask, “Is this space mine, or does it belong this extremely large creature blocking me?” Kuehnle’s message, Stop and connect with me — talk and touch me, and, an addendum, Your space may not be as private as you think it is or would like it to be.
The Hudson River Museum hosts Jimmy Kuehnle’s first large-scale solo installation in New York. Products of numerous renderings, Kuehnle inflatables include three new works: Super Punch Bubbles, blossoms of bright color emerging from Glenview’s venerable tower windows, and light blinking from the tower ticks off the change of the hours; You Lick Me, I Lick You, inflatables shaped like tongues that drape the Museum’s Entrance Arch; and, in the galleries, Hot Polyester Bladder Lung, that “breathing” beckons you towards its shifting form as it expends life into the far reaches of the galleries. The huge neon-pink Please, no smash, a costume-sculpture hybrid, just returned from its sensational season at Cleveland’s MOCA, fills the Museum’s atrium and is joined by You Wear What I Wear and Hello Bye. The titles of Kuehnle’s works are as intriguing as they are. I like titles that make people curious, says Kuehnle, but also offer the potential for your own interpretation by have some sort of call-to-action.
Kuehnle sculptures, which he makes from vinyl-coated polyester fabric, inflate and deflate, pulsing, and by extension breathing, like an organism. Bestowing kinetic energy on a sculpture demands of its maker a sophisticated approach to scale and movement. The installation, itself, always requires new construction and problem solving aided by programming platforms for electronics and the traditional push and pull of winches, pulleys, and rigging. When I work on projects, I always like to learn things and have new experiences. So I set up challenges, situations that require new techniques, said Kuehnle.
A teacher at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Kuehnle has had solo shows at museums, galleries and universities in the United States and internationally. In 2014 he was selected for the national survey exhibition: State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. As a Fulbright Graduate Research Fellow in Japan, 2008, he pursued his interest in public art and sculpture.
THE HUDSON RIVER MUSEUM (hrm.org) is the largest cultural institution in Westchester County and a multidisciplinary complex that draws its identity from its site on the banks of the Hudson River, seeking to broaden the cultural horizons of all its visitors. The Museum collections focus on
19th-century through contemporary American Art; Glenview, an 1876 house on the National Register of Historic Places; Hudson Riverama, an environmental teaching gallery; a state-of-the-art, 120-seat planetarium, and a 400-seat outdoor amphitheater. It presents exhibitions, programs, teaching initiatives, research, collection, preservation, and conservation – a wide range of activities that interpret its collections, interests and communities.