Lots of balloons are popped at New Year’s Eve parties every year. But with its newest exhibit, “The Balloon Art Blow Out,” the Alhambra-based Nucleus Art Gallery plans to restart the fun and excitement throughout next weekend.    

Featuring eight “giant interactive and Instagram-able” balloon installations, plus a huge room full of balloons that people can walk inside of and get lost in, the “Blow Out” offers fun for kids and adults alike. It will run from Jan. 11 through Jan. 15, with time blocks available to visitors from noon to 4 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at $10 per ticket.

“We are known for our events, because they’re highly visual and cater to the animation industry and entertainment arts such as illustration, video games, comic books and movies,” says Nucleus Manager/CEO Ben Zhu. “We did do a balloon event in August with a blind Korean artist named Hongseok Goh, and I had never seen balloons done that way before. We thought that was pretty successful, but even more people should see and experience this kind of art but with more lead time to promote it.”

The current exhibit focuses on the works of Addi Somekh, a balloon artist who introduced Goh to Nucleus and helped ensure that his exhibit had a successful run. A self-taught balloon twister, Somekh’s style incorporates improvisation, abstract design, and comic delivery, culminating in custom- made headdresses.

Somekh’s balloon hats have taken him around the world, as he traveled to 34 countries with photographer Charlie Eckert, making hats for people for free and photographing them in a rolling investigation into the universal nature of laughter. Their travels resulted in the book “The Inflatable Crown.”

In 2011, Somekh starred in the TLC reality show, “The Unpoppables,” which followed his LA-based company, New Balloon Art, as they built impossibly large interactive balloon installations at high-end events. He has also appeared on “The Today Show,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Access Hollywood” and several other shows.

Somekh’s current obsession is playing the “Balloon Bass” – a three and a half octave, all-latex musical instrument that sounds just like a funky upright bass.

In fact, Somekh will be leading a performance by his trio The Unpopables from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday, including electric bass wizard Joey Maramba and Alfred Ortiz on drums, at the installation. His unique instrument consists of an  11-inch round balloon and two skinny twisting balloons, all made of latex and with one skinny balloon used as the string and the other as the resonator inside the round balloon.

Together, the balloons combine to make deep, booming low frequencies across three and a half octaves, while also having the potential for twangy sitar-like sounds. Somekh attaches a piezo pickup to it and runs it through a pedal board and an amp.

While many of the installations in the exhibit are being kept a secret in order to maintain the element of surprise for attendees, Zhu is particularly excited about two key elements.

“There will be a roomful of giant balloons you walk through that is reminiscent of giant ball pits that kids can get immersed in, only our balloons will be up to two feet wide instead of three inches like a ball,” says Zhu. “And we also have a balloon totem planned, though it’s a work in progress.

“The idea of the balloon totem is that it’s basically a giant pole that people can attach their own balloons to,” adds Zhu. They can write wishes on their balloon and put it on the totem pole, then at the closing night popping party from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, we’ll pop them all to make the wishes come true.” 


“The Balloon Art Blow Out” takes place from noon to 8 p.m. Jan. 11-15 at Nucleus Art Gallery, 210 E. Main St., Alhambra. Admission is $10 for either noon to 4 p.m. or 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Call (626) 458-7477 or visit gallerynucleus.com.