A Floating Dreamscape Made From Hundreds of Kites

No, you can’t fly any of them.

In the mid-1990s, when Jacob Hashimoto was enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the painting student’s procrastination often took an unusual form: instead of watching TV or playing hooky with friends, he built kites. Yup, your standard paper-on-a-string, take-’em-to-the-park-and-fly-’em kites. But the unlikely distraction proved to be a valuable one. For over a decade now, Hashimoto has been arranging his paper playthings into intricate works of art. His latest installation, Gas Giant, shows just how gorgeous some paper on a string can really be.


The new piece is part of Hashimoto’s third solo exhibition at the Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, and he considers it his most ambitious project to date. Hundreds of kites of different shapes are arranged in various groupings, comprising a hanging skyscape where a variety of colors and patterns are intermixed among fluffy white clouds–er, that is, paper kites that are white and oblong as opposed to colored and square. The installation itself produces a funny sort of optical illusion when photographed–what looks like a warehouse-size space is actually a pretty modest gallery, the ceilings not much higher than 15 feet. Basically, it’s a lot of kites in not a lot of space.

Another trick the photographs play, Hashimoto told me, is giving the scene a somewhat false sense of stillness. “Even though the individual artworks appear static,” he explained, “they do shudder and move slightly even in the lightest of breezes pushed by one’s body. The large-scale installations such as Gas Giant tend to move more and they are incredibly sensitive any movement or draft in the gallery space. The drifting, rocking undulations both acknowledge the view’s presence in the space and create a much more substantive connection between the artwork and the physical world.”

That connection is something that Hashimoto has continually tried to explore with his art. On a basic level, he explains, he’s always just thought kites were “kind of cool objects.” But as he started to incorporate them into his work, he found that audiences often brought their own unique experiences and memories to the encounter. “I was (and I still am) interested in how I could manipulate the kites sculpturally,” Hashimoto told me, but “at the same time, I was curious as to how viewers brought their own associations and personal narratives and reflected them in the work.” Personally, the installation instantly brought to mind Super Mario Bros, which probably means I should’ve spent a little more time outside flying kites as a kid.

Gas Giant will be on view at Chicago’s Rhona Hoffman Gallery through October 20th. You can see more of Hashimoto’s work on his personal site.

[Hat tip: Designboom]