Case Study: Timberflex Exhibits Artistic Qualities for the Art Institute of Chicago

January 10, 2024

Some consider architecture to be one of the highest forms of art. At Kerfkore, we have to agree — we’ve always believed the dynamic curves and modern finishes of Kerfkore architectural panels belong in art museums. 

In our latest case study, we had a chance to prove it — as the supporting backdrop and pedestals in an exhibition of French sculptor Camille Claudel’s art at the Art Institute of Chicago.  

It’s truly an honor for Kerfkore architectural panels to be part of an exhibition featuring the stunning work of Claudel. Keep reading to find out how this exciting project came to be. 

The Customer 

Founded in 1879, the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) is one of the largest and most prestigious art museums on Earth, featuring world-famous art from Vincent Van Gogh to Pablo Picasso.

The Opportunity

For this installation, the AIC planned to feature a curved backdrop for a collection of sculptures. The sculptures portray people in a variety of dramatic poses and movements, exhibiting a full range of human emotions — art that is anything but rigid or linear.

Originally, the design team planned to surround the sculptures with a curtain to provide a curved backdrop. Unfortunately, once prototypes of the design were built, the team realized a sleeker and cleaner appearance was needed, but they only had two months left to shift concepts and complete the project.

It was decided a pair of curved walls could provide the clean and sleek aesthetics envisioned.

For previous projects with curved walls, the AIC had utilized staggered and layered 1/4” plywood. But this time, the design team wanted a more dramatic and tighter curve of 16” for each wall, a radius too tight for 1/4” plywood.

The Solution

two images. the first is a curved wall with Kerfkore's timberflex product. the second image shows the framing behind the panels.

To begin constructing the walls for the gallery, frameworks were built utilizing vertical studs that were tightly placed 8 inches on center.

Kerfkore’s Timberflex Panels were then attached to the framework. Timberflex was chosen for a few reasons. First, Timberflex Panels feature a maximum bending radius of 5”, which would allow the design team to achieve a deep and dramatic curve. In addition, Timberflex’s 3-Ply Italian Poplar Plywood face material would save prep time — a concern during the two-month time crunch. The 1/4” bending plywood that AIC had previously used on projects featuring curved walls would require a skim coat finish to create a consistent and smooth appearance. With Timberflex’s face material, the team was able to skip such additional treatments, saving them time and labor.

Once the Timberflex Panels were attached to the framework, a mud finish was applied and then painted over. The result was a seamless and clean surface that would blend in with the minimalist appearance of the gallery and provide a neutral backdrop for the artwork.

The Product: Timberflex

The Timberflex Flexible Panel combines our unique base layer manufacturing process with our 1/8′′ imported Italian Poplar Plywood Face to create a flexible and extremely stable base layer that allows easy attachment of high-pressure laminates, veneers, metals, and many other semirigid materials.

When using Timberflex, the decorative surfacing material is applied after the base material has been formed into the desired shape achieving a maximum 5′′ radius.

Key Benefits of Timberflex

3-Ply Italian Poplar Plywood Face Made in Italy

Made of overlapped Poplar core veneers whose grains are longitudinally glued and combined with our Timberflex cores, it can achieve a maximum radius of 5′′.

Consistent Thickness

The dimensionally sized Timberflex provides excellent seam-hiding characteristics and consistent performance and uniformity.

Paint, Stain, or Laminate – No Prep Required

Perfectly flat without dips, valleys, or hard spots eliminating the need for sanding, patching or laying up multiple sheets of plywood.

The Results

curved pedestal displaying a small statue

The newly constructed, dramatically curved walls welcome museum visitors and direct their focus to the sculptures while complementing the dynamic movements and poses of the art itself.

For the same exhibition, matching pedestals were also constructed using Timberflex panels with similar curved dynamics.

The gentle slopes of the pedestals guide visitors’ attention to the art while creating a sharp contrast with the dramatic tension that plays out in the sculptures.

Overall, Timberflex panels were able to play a supporting role to the art of Camille Claudel. The panels provided the deep curves the project called for while acting as a complementary canvas for a seamless finish. By taking advantage of the prep time that Timberflex saved them when compared to bending plywood, the AIC was able to complete their project within their limited timeline.

To us, it sounds like Kerfkore Timberflex fits right in alongside some of the greatest artwork in the world. 

Start Your Next Great Art Project with Kerfkore

Whether you’re building an exhibit for groundbreaking sculptures or constructing a new music education complex for a major university, Kerfkore’s flexible and lightweight products can help you turn your work into a work of art. Speak to our sales team to find which product best fits your needs or request a sample to get started