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A kinetic sculptural installation by Bay Area environmental artist Ned Kahn
Ned Kahn, Negev Wheel, 2016. Sand, steel, and motor, 20 ft diameter. Image courtesy of Ned Kahn Studios. Ned Kahn: Negev Wheel. On view July 28, 2016–January 8, 2017 at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Contemporary Jewish Museum debuts an original kinetic sculpture, Negev Wheel, created by famed environmental artist and sculptor Ned Kahn (b. 1960, Connecticut). A resident of the Bay Area for over thirty years, Kahn is well known for creating installation works at the intersection of art and science that explore, mimic, and play with phenomena found in nature, such as the massive wind installation Firefly on the north façade of San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission building, and for his many years as a designer of several of the Exploratorium’s most popular displays. Flowing water, fog, sand, air currents, and light are his media, and with them, he creates artworks that allow viewers to observe and interact with the complex, continually changing, and often invisible forces of nature.

Negev Wheel is a colossal steel disk, twenty feet in diameter, that frames a reservoir filled with a mixture of glass beads and sand from Israel’s Negev Desert. As it spins, avalanching sand organizes into wave patterns suggestive of churning liquids. Often the two materials separate, each flowing in different ways. In the constant mixing, unmixing, and mixing again, Kahn creates a mesmerizing piece that invites contemplation of unity and complexity, change and permanence.

“The sand of the Negev Desert, which covers half of Israel, is a complex mixture of sands blown by the wind for centuries from all over the region,” says Kahn. “The idea was to take a piece of the desert, frame it in a circular enclosure, subject it to elemental forces and then let it express its nature.”

Alongside the larger sculpture, which is propelled by a motor, Kahn offers a second, smaller sand sculpture designed for public interaction. Visitors, especially children, can set this smaller work in motion themselves. Both pieces have been lit dramatically within the darkened gallery.

“Negev Wheel will be a stunning, immersive, and thought-provoking experience for all of The Museum’s visitors,” says Lori Starr, Executive Director of The CJM. “Ned Kahn’s work is a breathtaking and dynamic spectacle that also prompts deep reflection on the ever-changing nature of the world around us.”

The exhibition is on view July 28, 2016–January 8, 2017.

Holding a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of Connecticut, Ned Kahn has realized many public art commissions, most notably for the Yahoo Headquarters (Sunnyvale, CA), the Huntington Botanical Gardens (Pasadena, CA), the University of Calgary (Canada), and the Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, IL). His works have been exhibited in many different places – both science and art museums – such as the Museum of Natural History (London, UK), the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (New York, NY), and the Headlands Center for the Arts (Sausalito, CA). Kahn has received numerous awards for his work, including an NEA Sculpture Fellowship in 1991 and 1994, a 2003 MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship, and a 2009 Americans for the Art’s Public Art Award. 

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