Sheldon Museum of Art is blowing up an artwork this summer.
With an air pump, that is.
Designed by Jeff Day, professor of architecture at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the artwork is “Pneumad,” a dome-shaped, room-sized inflatable that is part of the museum’s “Sheldon Statewide — Shape Up! Visualizing the Geometric World” exhibition. Paired with “Soft Stones,” a geometric furniture design by Day’s San Francisco-based architecture firm Min Day, the sculpture is intended for interaction, inviting visitors to lounge inside of it.
“’Pneumad’ is simply a prototype, an exploration of the idea of mobility and thinking about how someone could move around the landscape with an inflatable dwelling that can be set up anywhere,” Day said. “It also recalls a moment in architectural history from 1968 that used air as a design element.”
The name, an amalgam of the words “pneumatic” and “nomad,” reflects the structure’s design. Developed by Day and his architectural firm partner, E.B. Min, the design allows the structure to be easily moved about in an attached trailer and inflated via a pneumatic pump at any location it can be hauled.
The sculpture was originally built for the “Truck-A-Tecture” exhibit at the Kaneko gallery in Omaha. It has also shown in “Play,” a second exhibition at Kaneko.
“It has always been intended as an exploration of an idea, something that was for fun and not intended to really ever be fully developed,” Day said. “Funny thing though, after ‘Truck-A-Tecture,’ we started getting all these requests from people who saw images of ‘Pneumad’ and liked the design for their own purposes.”
Day said he’s fielded calls from various groups and individuals — from the U.S. Department of Defense, which thought the design could be used for disaster relief housing, to a Nigerian doctor who believed the structure could be used as an Ebola isolation tent. The most recent petition came from a luxury-based Dubai tradeshow that intended to display the sculpture as a fanciful camping concept.
The only request Day has agreed to allowed the structure to be included in an Iowa high school prom.
“We’re just not really interested in developing the design further at this time,” Day said. “The design has technical merit, but it’s intended to be fun — architecture and furniture that is enjoyable to interact with and use.”
Day said he might develop the idea further in the future, possibly integrating photovoltaic cells that would allow the pneumatic pump to run on solar power.
“That would make this truly a mobile structure that could go anywhere you intended,” Day said.
“Pneumad” will be featured during upcoming special events at Sheldon, including First Friday celebrations on June 3 and July 1. Other planned inflation dates include Jazz in June performances on June 7, 14, 21 and 28, as well as Sheldon’s Family Day, 1 to 4 p.m. July 17.
“Shape Up” is on display at the Sheldon through July 31. It is presented in four sections — geometric abstraction; geometry and the built environment; geometry and the natural environment; and the geometricized body. Each section provides a framework for exploring the ways artists use geometry to visualize the world.
Many of the artworks will travel to communities across Nebraska as part of the 30th annual Sheldon Statewide exhibition. “Shape Up” will visit Chadron, Falls City, Fremont, McCook, Nebraska City, North Platte and York. “Pneumad” will not be part of the traveling exhibition.
In addition to architects Min and Day, “Shape Up” includes works by artists Kim Abeles, Francis Bacon, Felice Beato, Margaret Bourke-White, Alexander Calder, Chuck Close, Balcomb Greene, Fernand Leger, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Marjorie Mikasen, John Pfahl, Pablo Picasso, James Robertson, Hadieh Shafie, Joel Shapiro, and Walter Wilson.
The Sheldon’s First Friday event on June 3 is 5 to 7 p.m. Along with “Pneumad,” it will include a 5:30 p.m. original choreographed dance with music by Alexander Brown. The dance work, which will be performed by Marisol Herling and Beth Jensen, was commissioned by the museum in conjunction with the “Shape Up” exhibition.
For more information on Sheldon exhibitions and events, click here.