Ballooniverse: Balloon Art by Addi Somekh at the MAH

Addi Somekh’s balloon art at the MAH

Addi Somekh is expanding the ways we experience balloons.

Botanical balloons

What began as Somekh’s entrepreneurial hobby has evolved into a worldwide art movement that has brought joy, color, and creativity to people across the globe. The self-taught balloon twister is now recognized as one of the most inventive and accomplished international balloon artists in the world today. This fall, his vibrant, zany art is soaring to new heights in Ballooniverse, an exhibition at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.

The MAH installation rotates through November 19, 2017.

Now based in Los Angeles, Somekh originally taught himself how to twist balloons as a student at UC Santa Cruz, and from then on his artistry and comic presence evolved. His LA-based company, New Balloon Art, was featured in a reality TV series – The Unpoppables –  and he has appeared on The Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Martha Stewart, Access Hollywood, and several other shows. He pops up locally to teach and lead the Balloon Art Brigade at UCSC.

A balloon creature

Ballooniverse is an exhibition of unique, innovative balloon sculptures produced by Somekh. Hosted by the MAH in the Art Forum Gallery, the exhibition features rotating installations of small and large-scale artwork, including balloon gardens, graffiti balloons, and life-sized balloon elephants. The balloon art spanning the walls, ceilings, and floor reflects his vastly imaginative range, from abstract forms and recognizable creatures to wall decorations and wearable art.

Terkana District, Kenya. 1997

The sculptures are featured alongside photos from the Balloon Hat Experience, a 37-country-wide balloon-hat-making tour Somekh embarked on in collaboration with photographer Charlie Eckert. From 1996 to 2000, the two artists traveled to 34 countries and 20 U.S. states, twisting over 100,000 balloons along the way for hundreds of people. The improvisation and sense of humor evident in the work proves that bringing people together for spontaneous bursts of art and laughter inspires a shared language and experience that is universally understood and appreciated. Their journey resulted in a book – The Inflatable Crown.

Saint Petersburg, Russia. 1996

Somekh’s work challenges any preconceptions of how balloons can be manipulated and enjoyed (his latest fun and funky feat is playing the Balloon Bass, a three and a half octave, all-latex musical instrument made entirely made from balloons). Through the exhibition photographs and sculptures, we see the power that something as simple as a balloon can have on inspiring playfulness, connection, and celebration with people from all walks of life.

See art and make art at the MAH.

To reflect the interactive nature of this artwork, the MAH has provided a work table adjoining the gallery space with materials for balloon-making, so visitors can try their hand at the craft!

The rotating installation will change on October 6th to feature Balloon Graffiti with Spray Paint Artist Ernesto. Ballooniverse will be exhibited at the MAH through November 19th, 2017.

Photographs by Charlie Eckert

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