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Blown Away in Walnut Creek

An uplifting new exhibition of inflatable artwork takes off at Bedford gallery.


Jack, by the art collective Chromaforms, floats in Lake Merritt. The piece will appear in Bedford Gallery’s Blow Up II show.

Photo courtesy of Chromaforms

Inflatable figures are everywhere. Giant tube men wave as you drive by; Christmas decorations add cheer to neighborhood lawns; bounce houses delight gleeful children at birthday parties. And this month, supersize air-filled sculptures come to Walnut Creek’s Bedford Gallery for its newest exhibition, Blow Up II: Inflatable Contemporary Art, proving that these lighthearted creations can be powerful outlets for artistic expression.

Blow Up II builds on the success of the gallery’s inaugural inflatable-​art exhibition, held in the spring of 2015, which spent three years touring the country after debuting at the Bedford. This year’s show features the nylon-based work of nine artists, and more than half of the giant sculptures—which include a white rat, an iridescent neon skull, and pop-culture characters modeled after China’s terra cotta soldiers—were commissioned specifically for the Bedford. Viewed together, the pieces create an immersive experience for visitors. “In some cases, [the works] investigate the contradictions of a soft, pillowy object uncannily coupled with subject matter that, in reality, is the exact opposite,” says Carrie Lederer, the Bedford’s curator of exhibitions and programs, who notes that inflatables have been around since the 1700s.

Like its predecessor, Blow Up II will tour following its run at the Bedford and is sure to resonate with national audiences. As Lederer puts it: “The artworks in Blow Up II harness the power of air, and our imaginations, to take us on extraordinary journeys.”


Blow Up II: Inflatable Contemporary Art is on view July 14 through September 15. bedfordgallery.org.


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