Tongue in Cheek: The Inflatable Art of Jimmy Kuehnle

June 4–September 18, 2016

Kuehnle’s inflatables invade the Hudson River Museum’s limestone Victorian home, Glenview, as well as 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, 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 your way, so as to ask, “Is this space mine, or does it belong this extremely large creature blocking me?”

This exhibition, which is Kuehnle’s first large-scale solo installation in New York, includes three new works: Super Punch Bubbles, blossoms of bright color emerging from Glenview’s venerable tower windows that function as an illuminated clock, with light blinking the change of 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, whose “breathing” beckons you towards its shifting form as it expends life into far reaches of the Museum. The huge neon-pink Please, no smash, a costume-sculpture hybrid that just returned from a sensational season at Cleveland’s MOCA, fills the Museum’s atrium and is joined by You Wear What I Wear and Hello Bye.

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Kuehnle sculptures, which he makes from vinyl-coated polyester fabric, inflate and deflate, pulse and breathe, 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,” says Kuehnle.

Kuehnle who teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art, has had solo shows at museums, galleries, and universities in the United States and abroad. 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.

Jimmy Kuehnle. You Lick Me, I Lick You, 2016. Polyester, blower, lights. Courtesy the Artist. Photo: Ken Lax.