Monday, August 1, 2016

'Negev Wheel' at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Ned Kahn, Negev Wheel, 2016. Sand, steel, and motor, 20 ft diameter. Image courtesy of Ned Kahn Studios. Ned Kahn: Negev Wheel. On view July 28, 2016–January 8, 2017 at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum debuts an original kinetic sculpture, "Negev Wheel,"  created by famed environmental artist and sculptor Ned Kahn (b. 1960, Connecticut). A resident of the Bay Area for over thirty years, Kahn is well known for creating installation works at the intersection of art and science that explore, mimic, and play with phenomena found in nature, such as the massive wind installation "Firefly" on the north facade of San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission building, and for his many years as a  designer of several of the Exploratorium’s most popular displays. Flowing water, fog, sand, air currents, and light are his media, and with them, he creates artworks that allow viewers to observe and interact with the complex, continually changing, and often invisible forces of nature.

"Negev Wheel: is a colossal steel disk, twenty feet in diameter, that frames a reservoir filled with a mixture of glass beads and sand from Israel’s Negev Desert. As it spins, avalanching sand organizes into wave patterns suggestive of churning liquids. Often the two materials separate, each flowing in different ways. In the constant mixing, unmixing, and mixing again, Kahn creates a mesmerizing piece that invites contemplation of unity and complexity, change and permanence.

“The sand of the Negev Desert, which covers half of Israel, is a complex mixture of sands blown by the wind for centuries from all over the region,” says Kahn. “The idea was to take a piece of the desert, frame it in a circular enclosure, subject it to elemental forces and then let it express its nature.”

Alongside the larger sculpture, which is propelled by a motor, Kahn offers a second, smaller sand sculpture designed for public interaction. Visitors, especially children, can set this smaller work in motion themselves. Both pieces have been lit dramatically within the darkened gallery.

“Negev Wheel will be a stunning, immersive, and thought-provoking experience for all of The Museum’s visitors,” says Lori Starr, Executive Director of The CJM. “Ned Kahn’s work is a breathtaking and dynamic spectacle that also prompts deep reflection on the ever-changing nature of the world around us.”

From a statement on his website: The confluence of science and art has fascinated me throughout my career. For the last twenty years, I have developed a body of work inspired by atmospheric physics, geology, astronomy and fluid motion. I strive to create artworks that enable viewers to observe and interact with natural processes. I am less interested in creating an alternative reality than I am in capturing, through my art, the mysteriousness of the world around us.
My artworks frequently incorporate flowing water, fog, sand and light to create complex and continually changing systems. Many of these works can be seen as “observatories” in that they frame and enhance our perception of natural phenomena. I am intrigued with the way patterns can emerge when things flow. These patterns are not static objects, they are patterns of behavior – recurring themes in nature.



The exhibition is on view July 28, 2016–January 8, 2017.

Images courtesy of the CJM/Nina Savich

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