Livermore Lab scientist's origami art to be in
Walnut Creek sculpture show
By Lou Fancher
Grounded in mathematics and computer science in his day job at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the 42-year-old Croatian native gravitates instinctively to origami's minimalistic, obey-the-pattern approach. But coupled with an algorithm-lover's fondness for logical solutions to weblike, theoretical problems, Konjevod displays a metaphysical, metaphorical understanding of the paper with which he works.
"When it gets to sculpting the folded sheet, I don't even know the number of folds I've done," Konjevod says. "I just work until I make something beautiful. I stop when it reminds me of something. I don't try to make it realistic."
Even so, the results of his meticulous folding and improvisational sculpting are abstract forms that suggest, if not a crane or woodland creature, the swirl and swoop of a bird or a fox's running path. Or another piece, which manages to resemble a tree stump and an owl's head, about to swivel 180 degrees. Or, "Accuracy is Overrated," a slumping structure that looks like a sand castle after it's been hit by a few waves. "Air Cliff," a paper with fiberglass work included in the monthlong annual "Sculpture in the Garden" exhibit at Walnut Creek's Ruth Bancroft Garden may strike some viewers as an oversized calla lily, although the artist's interpretation is of a jagged, rocky shoreline cliff.
Carrie Lederer, curator at the downtown Walnut Creek Bedford Gallery and a juror for the Bancroft event, says the Livermore-based artist's work is a perfect fit for the show. "While at first glance his piece appears to be abstract, it also has an organic sensibility with shapes and texture that might be found in nature."
Co-juror Gwenda Joyce says Konjevod's approach results in myriad shapes that are "confounding, compelling and beautiful."
Largely self-taught from books and inspired by a Japanese festival he attended while still in high school in Zagreb, Croatia, Konjevod says he became more serious about origami while attending grad school in Pittsburg. But while working as a computer science professor at Arizona State University, he dropped the hobby for five years. One day, picking up a single sheet of paper and reverse-engineering a fold he took from a book, Konjevod held in his hands something he'd never seen before.
"I then took (origami artist) Paul Jackson's intersecting planes and found a way to fold through my ideas," he says. "I realized it's not just what the folds begin looking like, it's the shape the paper wants to take on. The physics inside the paper allow me to sculpt."
Preferring sturdy, thicker-than-average elephant hide or watercolor paper, Konjevod typically begins with a single sheet about 27 by 40 inches. A simple square grid pattern is the basis for the sequence of pleats he creates. Sketches help him to replicate the folding or to explore possible sculptural shapes, but he's not scrupulous about creating them. The final form -- the destiny of the paper -- occasionally arrives after much delay. Sometimes, he's following the paper. Other times, he's fighting it.
"Sometimes it feels like I'm struggling with the properties of the paper. The pleated sheet is no longer flat, it wants to move, to stretch and be elastic."
When, over months or years, a pleat or fold relaxes, Konjevod says a half-centimeter shift will sometimes allow a piece to assume its "best shape." With his art occasionally on display at Bay Area galleries and in shows at Oakland International Airport, Richmond Arts Center and a national traveling show that included Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum, a project commissioned in 2012 by Alameda County Arts Commission for Oakland's Highland Hospital presented a new challenge.
"They had strict requirements on the depth. It's the first time I made use of paper that wasn't all flat color. I had to make the patterns interact with the colors."
Lately, he's gravitated more often to casting his origami designs in bronze. Sand mixed with a binder is used to build a mold. Carefully removing the paper, bronze is poured into the sand. Again, the emergent, more-durable forms resist their static reality, spiraling like ivy or arcing like a waterfall. Perhaps Konjevod's signature as an origami artist is in making inert objects appear to fly, spin, splatter, pounce, reverberate and more.