mo willems

Opposites Abstract: Don’t miss the new Mo Willems exhibit at the Children’s Museum

Photo above courtesy of KDKA.

Parents and kids will surely recognize these characters – Pigeon, Elephant and Piggie, Knufflebunny and more. Mo Willems is the author and illustrator, and now, he’s created an exhibit with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, but it may not be what you’d expect.

Colors and shapes pop out from everywhere in three-dimensional building blocks, two-dimensional drawings with stencils, doodles transformed by technology, and in large-scale paintings encircling it all by author and artist Mo Willems.

Photo courtesy of KDKA.

“Very seldom do you get to play with original art right there,” Willems told KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen as they walked through Willems’ new exhibit at MuseumLab on the campus of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

The exhibit, called “Opposites Abstract,” is inspired by Willems’ new book of the same name featuring his paired paintings that each ask a question.

“This is asking the question: ‘Is this inclusion? And is this exclusion?” He tells Sorensen, pointing to his paintings – one filled with squares but a tiny one missing and another mostly white with one small white square. “This one is ‘Is this soft? And is this hard?” he says as he references paintings with rounded lines and the other with straight lines.

Willems hopes this exhibit will make abstract art more approachable, giving families a chance to talk about it.

“Within that piece of abstract art, can you really play with ‘What does red mean? What does a triangle feel like? How does it make me feel?’“

Willems and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh took the concepts of abstract art and opposites and made them interactive.

mo willems
Photo courtesy of KDKA.

Brothers Nate and Ben Heimann, ages 8 and 12, from Coraopolis visited the exhibit and explored the concept of sound sped up and slowed down, all while absorbing the art around them.

“They’re shapes and colors, and you can try and guess what it’s trying to be. That’s why I like it,” Ben Heimann said.

Mo Willems hopes this exhibit inspires families to go home and be creative – whether it’s drawing, writing a song or coming up with a play. And it all starts with the parents or caregiver.

Willems told Sorensen, “When a parent asks, ‘Why is my kid not drawing or making art or being creative?’ The question I first ask is: ‘what are you doing?’…. If you’re drawing and creating and laughing and enjoying that activity, it becomes cool and the kids are going to want to do it.”

“What is similar to all my other books is that this book is an invitation for you to create,” Willems said. “My idea is at the end of a book, you don’t say, ‘The end,’ You say, ‘I want to do this.'”

After an opening weekend filled with events at MuseumLab on the Children’s Museum campus and at the New Hazlett Theater, the exhibit is open at MuseumLab through September 3. Along with 20 colorful, large-scale ink and acrylic paintings on paper by Mo Willems, which help kids explore opposites through abstraction and thought-provoking questions, families will find a ton of hands-on activities.

These activities include:

  • drawing machine: As you draw lines and shapes on one side of a screen, compare it to the OPPOSITE drawing that appears on the other side.
  • word abstractor: Choose a pair of OPPOSITES, then use the buttons and rollers to change how the words look. Do the changes affect what the words mean? How many different combinations can you make?
  • color reverser: Hold one of the masks or cards up to the screen and press the button. How do the colors change? How does the reverser change the feeling of the image?
  • sound slower: Play a melody, then turn the crank to change the speed of the music and notice how the song changes.
  • ball launcher: Pull a lever to send an individual ball through a group of pegs. See if you can make the ball disappear into one of the groups.
  • shape projector: Create your own abstract artwork using light, color and shadow play. Move the colorful and translucent shapes to create your composition. Choose an OPPOSITE ABSTRACT question to go with your artwork
  • shape stacker: Intentionally stack colored shapes in a vertical frame to build a composition. Once complete, pull the knob to dump the blocks onto the tabletop. How does this accidental composition compare to your intentional arrangement?
  • art blender: Combine an Element of Art and an OPPOSITE into a single artwork and hang your work in the section of the board that represents the two ideas.
  • tactile book: Touch the art and discover! This tactile book features raised lines and textures that make artwork more accessible for people who are blind, have low vision or like to learn through touch. Created by Touch Graphics, Inc.