Adolfo Cerceda (1923–79) was a talented Argentinian magician and an exceptionally gifted origamist. Many of his creations — such as the Arab on horseback, baseball player, bullfighter, and flamenco singer — are now origami classics.
This book of remarkably original and inventive projects, presented by origami expert Vicente Palacios, provides instructions for constructing over 100 different models attributed to Cerceda. Designed especially for newcomers to the art of paperfolding, they include such traditional figures as a duck in flight, a camel, rabbit, elephant, penguin, cat, jaguar, lion and lioness, butterfly, and polar bear, as well as such unusual subjects as a vampire, kneeling angel, devil, Pegasus, a sofa, and other ingenious creations.
Complete folding instructions accompany each project. There are also directions for general folding techniques, a table of folding symbols, a list of origami organizations, and more. A new introduction by origami expert Peter Engel complements a profusely illustrated volume that will delight beginning and veteran paperfolders alike.
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101 Models by Adolfo Cerceda
By Vicente Palacios
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1996 Vicente Palacios
All rights reserved.
THE LIFE OF ADOLFO CERCEDA
Ismael Adolfo Cerceda was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 13, 1923. The first years of his life were apparently rather unhappy and he hardly had the opportunity to go to school.
When he was twelve years old, Ismael went with his friends to the attractions advertising an International Fair that had been set up in the Japanese Park in Buenos Aires. Sideshows, shouting, loudspeakers, lights and colors, the teeming stream of people coming and going; and, of course, the Circus, to which our young friends made their way, dreaming that they themselves would some day take part in spectacular numbers as sword-swallowers, fakirs, flamethrowers ... Oh, anything at all! Let us hear it in the words of Adolfo Cerceda:
There was a man called Sulman performing there. I succeeded in meeting him one day and by dint of asking, begging and waiting on him, I was allowed to be initiated into the sword-swallowing profession and to sign on for working in the Fair. While I was working there, I became friendly with Captain Jack Kelly, an Australian; he was a real captain, whose act consisted of lassoes, whips and target shooting. He taught me to make lassoes, to handle the whip, and knife-throwing, as well as initiating me into the art of magic.
At the Fair there was a magician who did tricks with cards and telepathy. I think he was my first teacher.
I was also taught by Mundock, the conjuror and knife expert. His son, who is an acrobat, lives in Europe ...
Ismael Adolfo Cerceda began his tour around the world throwing knives like a real professional at the age of fifteen! He traveled all over South and Central America with the show we have already mentioned.
It was at about that time that he made friends with an odd character: the fakir Garcia.
He went about the villages with his long hair, talking in a Turkish or Arab accent he had invented and saying that he was Hindu. We did the Buried Alive turn together.
He would put me into a coffin and bury it in a hole 80 cm deep. After fifteen minutes, which was as long as I could keep on breathing, he took me out. Meanwhile, he would spend the time selling life-insurance policies and photographs.
Once, while I was buried, he went with a girl to see the fireworks and stayed away too long. They had to go and find him. I was desperate and decided to teach him a lesson. When he disinterred me I didn't respond to his spells about "returning from the Kingdom of the Dead" and "crossing the River Styx" and all that. He got a fright when he saw me completely immobile, and never again left the coffin.
Another time, in a village, we had to hire a coffin, as ours had not arrived by rail. The undertaker gave us the cheapest, of course. I got a real shock when the lid started to bend and creak under the weight of the earth, which began to pour in. I thought that the fakir, Garcia, would notice the earth sinking in. What a hope ...!
In 1955 Adolfo Cerceda achieved full recognition as a knife-thrower when he performed on the popular television program You Asked for It and on another with Bobby Sargent, for both of which his work was given an award.
In 1956, he met a dancer—Martha Rossi—at the Teatro Nacional Cervantes in Buenos Aires. Her artistic career was cut short by an injured knee, and from then on they decided to perform together. She would stand against a wooden board while he threw knives at her, outlining her silhouette. He would also do incredibly skillful turns with the whip, which always endangered the physical integrity of the intrepid Martha.
Those who met him were instantly impressed by the shy, unpretentious man who had to act on stage with extraordinarily aggressive decisiveness and great skill.
"The Gauchos," as the couple were known, traveled with their hair-raising attraction across Mexico and Australia, and to the main European cities. After performing for eight or ten months in Europe, they returned to the United States and settled in Chicago in 1962, appearing also in Las Vegas.
When Adolfo Cerceda was very young, he became acquainted with origami through his Spanish origins; it appears that his mother was from Asturias. Then one day ...
I was eighteen years old when I met a man who made figures by cutting up paper. I worked with him. It was while I was looking for a book that showed how to cut out figures that I found one on origami, that is, on shaping the figures without cutting the paper. A friend of mine wagered that I couldn't make four figures in a week as, in his opinion, it was very complicated. I made them all, and from that time on, I began to take a serious interest in origami.
Adolfo Cerceda paid several visits to Dr. Vicente Solórzano, a Spanish doctor living in Buenos Aires, who had been publishing books on this interesting hobby for 24 years, and who had practiced it even longer.
He was also acquainted with a book (Papirozoo) on paperfolding published in Argentina by an Italian (Giordano Lareo), and with the creative activity of another outstanding paperfolding artist (Ligia Montoya), also from Argentina, who had collaborated with Dr. Solórzano on the illustrations for his masterpiece.
In New York, Mrs. Lillian Oppenheimer, founder of an important center (The Origami Center), enabled him to get to know the work of several outstanding North American and Japanese enthusiasts.
Somebody advised him to take up paperfolding as a means of steadying his nerves, an essential in the knife-throwing profession. From then on, Adolfo Cerceda took an increasing interest in this, his old hobby. Letters began arriving at his home from Ligia, who sent him figures she had created, folded with very thin paper and surprising dexterity.
The numerous performances, the countless hours spent rehearsing and the time traveling gradually took its toll on Cerceda's marriage. Adolfo Cerceda and Martha Rossi finally decided to separate and to bring their professional relationship to an end. Adolfo sold his knives to an author who was writing a program for television called The Talking Horse. From that time on, he collaborated with Lillian Oppenheimer, looking after the artistic side of the publication The Origamian.
Cerceda quickly excelled at the simple, traditional European or Hispanic folding techniques and hardly paid any attention to the work of Solórzano, which he considered to be affected and florid. He had also been fascinated for some time by the work of Yoshizawa, a young Japanese artist, whose folded paper figures had reached the West in 1950, with explosive effects.
Soon, he decided to make his own origami creations. Many people had the good fortune to see him perform that same year (1962) at a meeting of the members of The Origami Center at the Japan Society in New York.
"At that time," it says in The Origamian (Vol. 2, no. 2, Spring—Summer, 1962), "he did not consider his skill to be particularly outstanding. On the contrary, he paid lavish compliments to the work of Yoshizawa, Harbin, Legman, Montoya and others.... whom he did consider to be true artists. Everybody, however, saw that he had an extraordinary capacity and considerable ingenuity, which they admired as much as his innate and boundless goodness. For many, he was already one of the few experts in all the world."
His "Pegasus 1," "Rhinoceros," "Pekingese Dog," "Owl" and several others in this book, were created in 1960. The instructions drawn by Cerceda for the folding of his "Master Fox" also date from 1960, although they were not published until October 1967 (in The Origamian, Vol. 7, no. 3, Autumn, 1967). Many of his creations are now origami classics.
Cerceda's famous "Arab on Horseback," created from one of his own basic forms, first appeared in 1962 in The Origamian, Vol. 2, no. 3, Spring—Summer. It was the first time that more than one figure (in this case, the Arab and his horse) made from a single sheet of paper had been seen in the West, and inspired other artists to follow his example. That same year he also presented "Parrot 3," which can be seen in this book.
He was commissioned by a publishing friend of his to compose his book Folding Money, Vol. 1, which came out in 1963 and was reissued in 1965, 1970, 1972, etc., in which he shows how to fold figures with U. S. Banknotes, some of them his own creations and others traditional ones.
But let us return to the professional activity of Cerceda. Having abandoned his line as a knife-thrower, he bought from the conjurer Ade Duval the performance rights of the number "Rhapsody in Silk," a superb metamorphosis spectacle with silk handkerchiefs, which he performed in clubs, hotels, ice shows, television, etc.
In 1964, under the name of "Marcel & Petit," and with the collaboration of a new partner, he took part in the ninth showing of "It's Magic!" in Los Angeles.
Throughout his travels, Adolfo Cerceda became acquainted with many folders and made numerous friends. In his private collections, we have found exquisite figures given to him by their creators: Neal Elias, Fred Rohm, Ligia Montoya, John Montroll, Robert Harbin, Dokuohtei Nakano, Toshio Chino ..., instructions for figures by Yoshizawa, drawn by Cerceda himself, and also many figures by Spanish artists.
In 1959, a great friendship with Mr. Gershon Legman was born. A former professor of psychology at Harvard University, he had settled in a castle in Valbonne (Maritime Alps, France) at the end of the Second World War, and embarked on a fruitful correspondence with Cerceda. In 1954, Legman exhibited 300 works by Yoshizawa in a small gallery in Cagnes-sur-Mer. This was the first exhibition in the West of the extraordinary Japanese artist. Legman also compiled an extensive biography of origami, the only one of its kind at that time. Legman says:
Often I would send him parcels of Japanese washi paper, which Cerceda loved to fold because of its great flexibility in every direction. He rewarded me by showing me several of xi his new creations, especially those worked out from new and advanced basic forms; he knew that my interest in origami was always focused on this type of basis and the folding involved in it.
In one of his letters, Cerceda wrote to Legman: "I have created at least a hundred figures and about ten basic forms."
In the United States, Cerceda also met many of the great figures in the world of magic; Fu-Manchu, the epitome, he says, of all one would wish to be as a conjurer; Blackstone, by then a very old man; Chan, Dante, Wu-Linchan, Ade Duval, Houdini, Pollack....
In about 1965, Adolfo Cerceda went to Europe again where, under the name of "Don Alvan," he presented a new version of "Rhapsody in Silk" in numerous shows, which ended with his producing five full fishbowls! He performed this with great skill on a platform surrounded by the public. "It was a very complicated number," said Cerceda, "On two occasions I filled the stage with water, pieces of glass and goldfish because I made a false move."
In 1968 he married France Larrosa, a young French girl who was a dancer at the Opera in Paris, and who gave up her artistic career to become his new partenaire.
"I owe her a great deal," he said. "She made very important changes in my show."
That same year, he received some tragic news: he had developed a malignant tumor in one of his lungs. He underwent surgery and made a trip around the world again, this time under the name of Carlos Corda. He presented a conjuring show with France which enabled him to make use of his wonderful gift as a narrator, in Spanish, English, Italian and French. It was a marvelous production, called "Silk Sensation," which was carried out to perfection with bare hands.
In 1969, together with the young French cinema director Jean-Claude Meunier, Cerceda made 13 tapes of six minutes each on paperfolding, which were shown on French television with instant success. The station that aired the clips received about 200 letters of congratulation, and new telecasts had to be prepared.
In his correspondence with Legman, Cerceda had referred, years before, to his creation of two "Elephants"; they are numbers 1 and 2 in this book, as the papers used in 3 and 4 reveal. Both papers (45 x 22.5 cm each) are wrapping paper and have the words: "Teinturerie du Cygne - 26, Rue Duperré - Paris (9e) Tel. Pigalle 68-16" printed on them.
Adolfo Cerceda sold the rights for performing "Silk Sensation" to England's Magic Co. and prepared his new and final conjuring act, based on tricks with a three-meter-long rope, a piece of paper being turned into a real egg before the very eyes of the public, etc.
In 1971, he went on a tour of Italy. The Italian Magic Circle recorded a lecture given by Cerceda in the Hotel Garden. This organization reported:
His wide-ranging knowledge of magic knew no limits and his ideas were quite brilliant. However, the most outstanding thing about him was his sense of perfection and the care he took when carrying out the slightest details. He left unforgettable memories in Italy. We did not know what to admire more, his professionalism, his humanity or the great light of friendship that shone around Corda.
At the end of 1972, he was to be found fulfilling a series of contracts in Rome, Milan, Turin and Florence. There was no respite for his zeal!
In about 1974 or 1975, the company for which Adolfo Cerceda was working had to go to Japan. Cerceda went too, with France and their daughter Geraldine, and with a tremendous desire to meet Yoshizawa in person.
They attended the Annual Assembly of the Nippon Origami Society in Tokyo, where he met Isao Honda, who was quite old by that time, conversed with Nakano (whom he had already met in Paris), Toshie Takahama and T. Chino and, at last, with Yoshizawa himself in the latter's house-museum. Cerceda expressed his debt of gratitude for his work and could find no words to convey the pleasure he felt on examining hundreds of highly advanced models—the great, long-dreamt-of opportunity—in the very house of Akira Yoshizawa.
For Adolfo Cerceda, the only art was that found in the simplicity of the folds and the linear purity of the finished model, no matter how complicated its basic form. Out of pure professionalism, he skillfully took care to excel both in his work as a magician and in his paperfolding creations. Cerceda wrote:
Yoshizawa has a collection of insects, for example, that are quite perfect and impossible to reproduce. He showed me a collection of incredible figures, an unsurpassable Mammoth, some Ice Skaters ... from which not the slightest detail was missing ...
After fulfilling a contract on the ocean liner Daphne on which he passed fleetingly through Barcelona on a Mediterranean cruise, he finally arrived in this city on July 19, 1976, on his way to Portugal, with his luxurious car and canvas-covered trailer. He brought his house with him, as it were.
"All my figures are here, in my head," he told me. "I have some extremely deteriorated paperfoldings in some bags in my car, but they are only ideas to help me to remember." And he immediately folded some figures as a gift for me. The figures he created were always animals; he had stopped making geometric figures and inanimate objects many years earlier. He said:
Look, I have models that I have never given to anybody, and I don't think I ever shall. One of the reasons is that there are many people who live by this and they will publish them without my permission and will make money from something which I never wanted to commercialize. Many models have been stolen, copied, exploited. Those figures that I made will probably die with me. There are times when one has to be something of a miser.
We should like to make a little aside here to refer to a great quality of Adolfo Cerceda which we had not mentioned before: his great sense of humor. All through his life he conserved his same smile and his love of life.
"We speak French among ourselves," he said, referring to his wife and daughter. "France and Geraldine can't understand Spanish." And in order that I should be left in no doubt, he raised his voice all of a sudden and uttered some strong words about "these ... French who come to Spain to take the bread from our mouths ..." Then he looked at France and the little girl out of the corner of his eye and said to me with ill-disguised glee, "Didn't I tell you? They've no idea. They don't understand the Spanish language!"
On October 23, 1979, Gershon Legman wrote that Cerceda was very proud of his creations, but that he was also very suspicious, and that the same thing happened with Yoshizawa. Other artists got in first and published creations under their own name, based on unpublished figures of Yoshizawa they had seen. Sometimes, Adolfo Cerceda would enclose figures in his letters with the request: "Please do not show them to other artists." In a letter, Cerceda wrote to Yoshizawa, "I must hurry up and put down on paper, or in some other way, all my origami discoveries. To depart without leaving any trace for others would be tantamount to throwing away my life."
In October 1976, he returned to Spain where he performed in Madrid, Torremolinos, Valencia, Torremolinos again and Córdoba. From March 1977 until January 1978, he fulfilled new commitments in Madrid. That same month he had begun a series of broadcasts on origami, which were shown on television on Saturdays on the program El Recreo. This was followed by two months' performing on Torremolinos, Benidorm and Palma de Mallorca.
May 1978 found him settled in Madrid, where he was to remain. In August he attended the General Assembly of the Asociación Española de Papiroflexia, which was not yet officially established.
Excerpted from Fascinating Origami by Vicente Palacios. Copyright © 1996 Vicente Palacios. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Table of Contents
THE LIFE OF ADOLFO CERCEDA,
FIGURES PROVIDED BY MR. GERSHON LEGMAN,
LET US LISTEN TO CARLOS CORDA,
BEFORE BEGINNING FOLDING,
MODELS BY ADOLFO CERCEDA,
SYMBOLS USED IN THE DIAGRAMS,
STEP-BY-STEP FOLDING DIAGRAMS,
OTHER CREATIONS BY ADOLFO CERCEDA,
INDEX OF MODELS,
ORIGAMI CENTERS AND SOCIETIES,