The Big Idea
March 20 - June 30, 2020
Free Play considers the relationship between design and creativity in social spaces dedicated to recreation and play. Inspired in part by artist Isamu Noguchi, who believed in the power of social spaces to unite art and play in order to build community, the project will examine the way that artists, architects and designers have worked to create artistically thoughtful spaces for social interaction and engagement. The project will also look at play more broadly, offering interactive opportunities that encourage individual and group play. We hope to unleash some creativity, investigating and remembering that the unstructured, unplugged nature of play nurtures experimentation and heightens our senses.
Generously supported by Jeanne Meyers, with additional support from the Dawson Family.
Known for his work as a sculptor and furniture designer, Isamu Noguchi also designed playgrounds and play structures that married his sculptural aesthetic with the desire to create spaces for social interaction through play. The exhibition includes a selection of Noguchi’s models and drawings for play-grounds, play equipment and toys.
In addition to examining Noguchi’s ideas about play spaces, the project looks at the legacy of his ideas, including their impact on the designers of Sun Valley Resort’s terrain parks. Tal Roberts's photo-graphs of Sun Valley Resort's terrain park features, which incorporate Noguchi's theories and aesthetic, are also part of the exhibition.
Other 20th-century artists who engaged with the idea of play include the Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García, whose painted wooden toys, made with simple geometric forms, reflect his modernist and Constructivist aesthetic. In the late 1910s, he began designing transformable wooden toys with the intention of producing them for a mass market. The exhibition includes a selection of Torres-García’s original toys alongside reproductions that visitors are invited to play with.
Paintings by Torres-García’s student Gonzalo Fonseca illuminate the connection between Torres-García’s Constructivist impulse and his toy designs. Fonseca was also a friend of Noguchi and a designer of play spaces.
The exhibition includes interactive work by two contemporary artists, Tucker Nichols and Matt Sellars, each offering visitors opportunities for open-ended creative play. Tucker Nichols’s Starfield Simulator invites visitors to create their own constellations using translucent forms and an overhead projector, while Boomtown encourages visitors to build their own sculptural cities using wooden blocks and other materials.
Matt Sellars invites visitors to climb and move through his play structure, Ruta Alternativa (Alternative Route), where they can manipulate and maneuver around sculptures of different sizes, and perhaps play a game of checkers at his handmade game table.