The Palo Alto Arts Center Explores the Concept of Play in New Exhibit

Sep 16, 2017 - Dec 29, 2017Palo Alto Arts Center, Palo Alto

Play!, is a new exhibition at the Palo Alto Art Center that aims to engage audiences of all ages in the power of play through a wide range of exciting artwork. “From the social and intellectual development of children, to a tool for innovation, stress relief, innovation, and artistic exploration for teens and adults—play matters. We look forward to engaging the entire community in play this fall,” says Karen Kienzle, Palo Alto Art Center Director.

The concept of play is undergoing a renaissance. Whereas once it may have been applied to immature behavior, or used to describe the wasting of time, now it is recognized as an essential form of intellectual work for children and adults, as well as a path to creative productivity and social wellbeing. The artists exhibiting in Play! believe what more and more researchers, educators, and creatives are upholding as truth—that play is integral to the psychological wellbeing of each of us as individuals, as well as to the health of our families and communities. “Animals, including humans, play under the most adverse of circumstances—it is irrepressible,” says Palo Alto Art Center Curator Selene Foster. “And research shows that consistent playtime fosters empathy, makes us smarter and more adaptable, and builds a framework for complex social behavior. “

Each of the artists in Play! is vigorously engaged in the practice of play, and together they illustrate the myriad of ways this can be done. Andy Warhol and Billy Kluver’s immersive Silver Clouds and William T. Wiley’s Punball machine were imagined as instruments of play. Berlin-based artist Hans Hemmert uses balloons, a material we all recognize as a play object, to build a slowly deflating castle barely contained by the walls of the gallery. Dana Hemenway and Terry Berlier turn everyday objects into the stuff of play, while painter Robert Burden and installation artist Nils Volker use familiar imagery to recover the wonder they experienced as children.