First, fold the paper in half.
This may sound like a start to a child’s craft project, but this is also a possible starting point to any origami piece. Moving past “simple” swans, the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery in UC Santa Cruz’s Cowell College is opening a new exhibit on April 8 featuring the art of some of today’s most influential origami artists.
The exhibition is titled “The David Huffman Memorial Exhibit: Origami: Art + Mathematics.” David Huffman was a UCSC professor until his death in 1999. He was known most notably for his work in computer science, creating coding algorithms vital to programming today. This exhibit serves as an honorarium to the little-known fact that he was a pioneer in the field of computational and mathematical origami.
The difference between traditional origami and computational origami lies in the designing and creation of the folds. Simply put, computational origami uses computers to help create and plan designs. Computational origami lies in the realm of computer science, where geometry plays a vital role in computer programs that will help create new origami designs.
The artists in this exhibition have all been influenced in some way through the work that Huffman has done. Computational origami artist and MIT mathematician Erik Demaine calls Huffman “an icon.”
Demaine and his father, Martin, are working with Huffman’s family to interpret and organize his notes, as well as reverse-engineer some of his difficult origami designs. Demaine has also been collaborating with fellow artist and computer scientist Tomohiro Tachi, on improving a program called Origamizer. This program can help you create your own origami designs.
Robert Lang who is considered a pioneer of computational origami, is also exhibiting pieces of his art at the gallery.
“What keeps me going is that there is no end of possibilities,” Lang said.
In the past, Lang has found practical uses for origami practices, like designing a telescope that folds into a rocket.
Although he could not be reached for comment, another artist, Brian Chan, is also taking part in the exhibition. Demaine praised Chan’s abilities.
“[Brian is] a rising star… [who] goes beyond what you would expect to be possible from a square of paper,” Demaine said.
Lang is also appreciative of Chan’s work.
“[He is the] master of complex design,” Lang said. “Even more importantly, [Chan] is a master of craftsmanship, of control over the folding. Brian makes it so the complexity of the design doesn’t interfere with its artistic beauty.”
Chan is most known for is his piece “Suigintou,” a folding of a character from an anime and manga series.
Each artist has their own particular style. The art of Erik Demaine features mathematics, with his most recent origami works involving circular paper that he folds into abstract, 3-D shapes.
“It’s very different from what people think of traditional origami,” Lang said of Demaine’s work. “His art is a bridge between the abstract world of art and traditional origami. If you know math, you have an added layer of appreciation for his art.”
Recently, Lang and Demaine collaborated on a more efficient method of folding origami checkerboards.
At the exhibition itself, both Lang and Demaine will give lectures in the Humanities Lecture Hall about various subjects regarding the exhibit.
The curator of the Eloise Pickard Smith gallery, Linda Pope, said she got the idea for the exhibition while she was watching PBS one night.
“I was very impressed with the documentary ‘Between the Folds,’” Pope said.
“Between the Folds” is an award-winning documentary about origami that features Demaine, Lang, Chan and many others. Liking the way mathematics and art were mixed, Pope started the step-by-step process of developing an origami exhibition, starting by contacting Demaine. Her research led her to discover Huffman was the beginning of computational origami.
At the exhibition, Elise and Linda Huffman will bestow the Huffman Prize to one graduating senior “whose academic career at UCSC exhibits extraordinary creativity, depth of inquiry and overall excellence,” according to Jack Baskin’s School of Engineering webpage.
The exhibit will open on April 8 at 12:30 p.m., and will feature the art of some of the most prominent computational origami artists of today.