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Zimoun modern art exhibition opens at Ringling Museum of Art

Through D.C. motors that he builds himself, Zimoun brings ordinary objects to life – in one of his works, large rotating ventilators flutter ethereal plastic bags that cover all of the walls of a room like a cloud. This setting is dreamlike.

Zimoun is from Bern, Switzerland. His art is exhibited in locals as far and wide as Paris, Germany, Venezuela and Singapore. On Oct. 11, Ringling Museum of Art opened up his largest solo exhibition to date in its West Gallery.

“I’ve completely reconfigured galleries,” exhibition curator and New College adjunct instructor of art history Dr. Matthew McLendon said.  “We were thinking maybe we can just get one piece and now we have completely re-configured galleries, built new walls and now we have five pieces that we are installing this week.”

Zimoun’s art is modern and minimal. His sculptures consist of common materials such as filler wires, cardboard boxes, cotton balls, wood, styrofoam balls and polysilloxan hoses. He crafts each of his motors to make his sculptures kinetic and through this movement they produce sound. McLendon said that Zimoun designs these pieces out of a desire to connect sight to sound. “You really do get a sense of this when you are experiencing one of pieces.” McLendon reflected. “You are seeing sound in a way.”

According to McLendon, Zimoun started out studying music, then did experimental photography work. “He was constantly projecting more and more towards sound and all the things that that can mean,” McLendon said.

Zimoun’s pieces are not titled, but have descriptive names like “175 prepared dc-motors, filler wire 1.0 mm” and “236 prepared dc-motors, wire isolated and cardboard boxes 41x41x41cm.” His works are sight specific because they are constructed at each gallery that they are exhibited at. It took McLendon and the Ringling staff several weeks to prepare the space where Zimoun’s work is displayed – they had to build and paint walls in the West Gallery. Each work has its own devoted space, separated from the rest of the gallery by thick, plastic stripping – the kind used in meat lockers. This stripping keeps the sound of each piece from traveling throughout the gallery.

“As we’ve been installing the work, it is extremely simple and an extremely complex process to bring of all of these simple elements together into very complex sculptural systems,” McLendon explained. “Most of the time all the wires and all of the logistical pieces of these pieces are hidden. It will be interesting for me to see how he obscures all these mundane things to make his sculptures seem magical.”

To curate the exhibit, McLendon worked closely with Zimoun, and New College students were involved in preparing it. “He is quite possibly the nicest person I’ve dealt with in any capacity,” McLendon said. “[He is] incredibly humble and approachable, the most organized artist I’ve ever worked with.

“There is a great joy to [Zimoun’s work],” McLendon remarked. “There is a great playfulness. It shows us that the contemporary can be a space of joy and play.”

Zimoun’s sculptures will be on display through Jan. 8. Ringling Museum is free for Novocollegians and neighbors of the campus.