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Artists converge on Kakaako, transform street walls

By Elizabeth Kieszkowski

LAST UPDATED: 4:06 a.m. HST, Feb 16, 2014

Over the five days of painting for the annual Kaka­ako street-art festival Pow! Wow! Hawai‘i, the warehouse district is steadily transformed.

Ornate "wild-style" lettering covers one wall; rainbow-hued imagery inspired by Hawaii's connection to the ocean covers another. Exaggerated, fluorescent characters smile or leer down from above, and fantastic, otherworldly creatures turn toward passers-by at eye level. Try looking at all the murals in one trek and you may find your head spinning.


» Star-Advertiser's Pow! Wow! Hawaii interactive map


» Gallery of Pow! Wow! Hawaii murals (60 photos)

This year, 50 artists from Hawaii and 49 from the mainland and international locations such as Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Portugal and Taiwan descended on the district, creating more than 54 works. Organizers plan months in advance to arrange locations and logistics, which include getting the international artists to Hono­lulu and hosting many of them in a North Shore home.

Artist/designer Jasper Wong launched Pow! Wow! at his gallery in Hong Kong in 2008. The event hopped to Hawaii in 2010. Each year since, with cooperation from Kaka­ako businesses that provide walls for muralists and support from landowner Kame­ha­meha Schools, the event has grown.

"We're not tied to graffiti," Wong points out. "We owe as much to (mural) artists like Diego Rivera."

Artists known well enough to be celebrities in their own right have joined in, including Wayne White, a painter and puppeteer who helped launch the TV series "Pee Wee's Playhouse."

"I'm here to use humor as a way of telling the truth," White told participants at an artists' panel discussion Wednesday. "We all are very much akin as artists."

The murals take only days to complete, but research, sketches and other preparation work require much more effort.

Spending three to five days under the island sun is no small feat, either. While participants are advised to keep water and sunscreen handy, at least one mainland artist came down with a mild case of heatstroke after three days in front of a concrete wall in full sun. He returned shortly after dawn the next day to complete his piece.

On Wednesday afternoon, artist Persue was still smiling, even with another estimated eight hours to go. Wearing a white terry towel and a ball cap over his head to shield it from the searing sun, he described meeting with local artists Estria and John "Prime" Hina to talk about Hawaii's spiritual underpinnings and learning of the belief that rainbows could be a portal for spirits.

"This is our rainbow bridge," Persue said. "These are our original characters. We're using the portal to bring our characters to this world."

On the Net:



Street addresses apply to buildings/businesses. Paintings may be beside or behind the location given. Mauka means facing the mountains. Makai means facing the ocean. Ewa means facing Ewa Beach. Diamond Head means facing Diamond Head.

1. Dabs and Myla. 388 Koula St. Mauka wall of Cutter Mazda, 800 Ala Moana Blvd. Originally from Melbourne, these Los Angeles-based graffiti artists work as a pair. They are painting with New Zealand street artist Misery.

2. Trav. 388 Koula St. Ewa wall of Cutter Mazda, 800 Ala Moana Blvd. L.A. artist Trav is a veteran of the MSK graffiti crew, known for his classic, hand-worked style.

3. Skinner, Spencer Keeton Cunningham, Whomu. 744 Ala Moana Blvd. Diamond Head wall, adjacent to Auahi Street. Oakland, Calif., artist Skinner, founder of art and apparel company Critical Hit, makes pop culture- and heavy metal-influenced art that has been exhibited worldwide. San Francisco artist Spencer Keeton Cunningham’s graphically bold work often reacts to stereotypical Native American imagery. Whomu is a Hawaii artist.

4. Mural from the 2013 festival.

5. VHILS. 401 Cooke St. Makai wall. Portuguese street artist Alexandre Farto creates work, typically portrait-style faces, by carving into walls.

6. Tatiana Suarez and Aaron “Woes” Martin. 740 Ala Moana Blvd. Ewa wall facing Cooke Street.

7. Buff Monster and Nychos. 330 Cooke St.

8. Bask and Meggs. 330 Lana Lane. Alleyway.

9. Dzine, Quest, Ohana, Dmize. 330 Lana Lane. Ewa wall of alleyway. All four artists hail from Hawaii.

10. Cope2. 704 Ala Moana Blvd. Mauka wall facing Auahi Street. Fernando Carlo of the Bronx in New York City has been painting since 1978, and has gained international recognition for his classic “wild-style” graffiti. As part of a crew, he was subject of the graffiti film “Kings Destroy.”

11. Indie184. 704 Ala Moana Blvd. Mauka wall facing Auahi Street. New York City-based artist Indie184 was born in Puerto Rico. Her “wild-style” street art is known for playful, “feminine” embellishments.

12. Lady Aiko. 704 Ala Moana Blvd. Mauka wall.

13,14. Katch 1 and Ekundayo. 324 Coral St. Structure makai of building, mauka and Diamond Head walls. Hawaii’s Katch 1 has designed graffiti-based clothing, painted entire train cars in Los Angeles and co-founded the Natural Koncept skateboarding company. Ekundayo is a Hawaii artist known for his “surreal grotesque” figures.

15. Matthew and Roxanne Ortiz. 699 Auahi St. Diamond Head wall, facing Coral Street. Matthew and Roxanne Ortiz, previously known as Vers, create fanciful, optimistic cityscapes.

16. Push. 371 Coral St. Ewa wall. L.A.-based artist Push has been active since the 1990s, creating abstract, graphic-oriented works with brushes and spray paint.

17. Anonymous. 661 Auahi St. Ewa wall.

18. Roid and INSA. 660 Ala Moana Blvd. Makai wall. L.A.-based, U.K.-raised Roid, a member of street-art crew MSK, is known for graphically pristine and conceptually bold imagery; Forbes magazine named him one of “The 30 Most Important Artists and Designers Under 30” in 2011. INSA, a creator of murals and animated Web art, is influenced by consumerism/fetishism and pop art.

19. Aloha Family, EV crews. 458 Keawe St. Parking lot.

20. Gage Hamilton. Friends of the Library building, 690 Pohukaina St. A Portland, Ore.-based artist and designer.

21-29. Hawaii artists Ckaweeks, Beak, Remi Mead, Bother, Danny King, Jesse Velasquez, Alina Kawai, Zhi Hao Situ and Chris Broy. Friends of the Library building, 690 Pohukaina St. Ckaweeks is known for boldly graphic, comics-influenced animal characters. Beak, a prolific graffiti artist, is known for his sardonic bird characters. Remi Mead, an Okinawa-born artist now residing in Hawaii, often incorporates bunnies and girlish figures in her street art.

30. Remio. Friends of the Library building, 690 Pohukaina St. A Vancouver graffiti artist and designer.

31. Dmote. Friends of the Library building, 690 Pohukaina St. A New York-based artist, originally from Sydney, where he was considered one of the “25 Greatest Australian Graffiti Writers,” according to Complex magazine.

32. Axis. Friends of the Library building, 690 Pohukaina St. An L.A.-based artist arising from the skateboard/punk rock scenes.

33. Andrew Schoultz and Hannah Stouffer. 450 Cooke St. Makai wall, facing Auahi Street. San Francisco’s Andrew Schoultz is inspired by 15th-century German maps and Indian miniature paintings, with murals marked by his trademark, intricate “waves.”

34. APEX. 521 Cooke St. Ricardo Richey, aka APEX, creates colorful abstract murals and paintings as part of the Gestalt Collective in San Francisco.

35. Reach. 742 Pohukaina St. Makai wall. Taiwanese artist Reach creates bold murals and 3-D works.

36. 123Klan. 461 Cooke St. Mauka wall. Montreal-based French pair Scien and Mrs. Klor bring graffiti influences to work on logos, characters, illustrations and Web design.

37. Gaia, Prime, Solomon Enos, Estria. 805 Pohukaina St. Baltimore’s Gaia joins Hawaii artists Prime, Solomon Enos and Estria for a mural based on Native Hawaiian culture and soul of the aina.

38. Reka. 810 Pohukaina St.

39. Jessie and Katey. 506 Ahui St. Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn are a Baltimore-based team known for bold, board game- and nature-inspired patterns.

40. Jessie and Katey. 537 Ahui St. Makai wall.

41. Tristan Eaton. 517 Ahui St. Mauka wall. L.A. native Eaton, a founder of Thunderdog Studios, has worked as director of toy design for Kidrobot and taught at the Parsons School of Art and Design.

42,43. Kinsey and Kofie. 863 Halekauwila St. Diamond Head and mauka walls. Dave Kinsey, of Pittsburgh, has designed work for Absolut and Kenwood Vineyards, in addition to founding design studio and gallery BLK/MRKT. Augustine Kofie creates abstract murals with contemporary fine-art influences.

44. Ron English. 912 Ilaniwai St. Ewa wall. English, a prolific illustrator based in Beacon, N.Y., mashes up classical and contemporary allusions in a style he calls “POPaganda.” He’s creator of MC Supersized, the mascot featured in the hit documentary “Super Size Me.”

45. Madsteez. 807 Ilaniwai St. Diamond Head wall.

46. Defer. Kamea Hadar, Norm. 831 Queen St.

47. Cyrcle. 831 Queen St. Parking lot wall. New York City-based artist Cyrcle creates street art, gallery work and design pieces commissioned for toys, skateboards and shoes.

48. Brendan Monroe. 902 Kawaiahao St.

49. DavesAction, TSG, Mung Monster, Puff. Cafe Duck Butt, 901 Kawaiahao St.

50. Seth Globepainter. 633 Ala Moana Blvd. Mauka wall. Internationally known French muralist Globepainter’s murals typically feature children and pay tribute to the cultural traditions of the site.

51. Askew One, Zes and Reyes. 633 Ala Moana Blvd. Diamond Head wall. New Zealand artist Askew One’s murals often blend portrait technique, graphic design and classic “wild-style” flair; he’s a veteran with more than 20 years of experience. Zes, an L.A. artist and tagger, has been sought out for his obsessive, explosive abstract style. San Francisco’s Victor Reyes is also an illustrator, known for his swirling, graceful images and obsession with letters.

52. Know Hope. 886 Queen St. Diamond Head wall. Tel Aviv, Israel-based Know Hope creates site-specific murals, usually including a trademark, elongated figure. He has exhibited his work worldwide.

53. INTI. 766 Pohukaina St. Diamond Head wall. Chilean muralist INTI’s murals are inspired by his native and pop culture, often including unsettling allusions to both childhood and violence or unsafe practices.

54. Persue and Slick. 1717 Kalakaua Ave. Mauka of Kapiolani Boulevard and the Hawaii Convention Center, on the makai wall. Not shown on map.

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