Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences Presents Matthew Shlian Chirality

By Editorial Team on September 29, 2016

Mon, 15 August 2016 - Mon, 16 January 2017

Ara 114, 2012, paper, 48 x 48 inches. Courtesy of CPNAS.
Ara 114, 2012, paper, 48 x 48 inches. Courtesy of CPNAS.


Currently on view through January 16, 2017.


Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences (CPNAS) announces Chirality, an exhibition of 15 sculptures by Ann Arbor-based artist, designer, and paper engineer Matthew Shlian. The exhibition will remain on view through Jan. 16, 2017, at the National Academy of Sciences.

Matthew Shlian’s work exemplifies the dynamic problem-solving nexus of art and science. He incorporates the ancient Japanese art of kirigami into both his sculptures and his collaborative research with scientists at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. While origami is widely known as the art of paper folding, kirigami extends it by integrating paper cutting and can result in increasing a material’s flexibility and functionality. Shlian collaborates with scientists who are applying kirigami techniques to the development of innovative mechanisms that would enable solar cells to move and track the sun.

Not only does Shlian’s art influence science; science influences his work as well. The title of this exhibition, Chirality, refers to a property of asymmetry important in several branches of mathematics and science including genetics and biochemistry. It describes something that is not superimposable onto its mirror image; human hands are one of the most universally recognizable examples of this phenomenon. Shlian uses chiral patterns in many of his paper sculptures.

In a recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Science & Culture article featuring his kirigami projects, the artist describes how his collaboration with scientists has shifted his earlier thoughts about the work of artists and scientists:

  • Shlian’s interdisciplinary forays have helped him appreciate scientists’ activities and motivations. In school, he thought science was rote and by the book. “You find it’s not really like that with this cutting edge work,” he says. “Scientists are just as curious as artists are; they’re just as excitable as we are about new things.”

The galleries are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. A photo ID is required. Watch a video about the exhibition at Shlian speaks at CPNAS’ D.C. Art Science Evening Rendezvous on Sept. 22.

Chirality will be on exhibit at the National Academy of Sciences building, 2101 Constitution Ave. NW. For more information, visit