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The art of friendship

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  • “What’s Left of Breath” was taken by Valerie Yong Ock Kim in 2015 at Kua Bay, Hawaii island.

  • “Loulu Palm,” by Bruce Erickson, was taken at Kalopa State Park, north of Hilo.

  • “Fish & Swimmers, Ironman Triathlon,” in archival pigment print, was taken by Wayne Levin in 2001, during the Ironman Triathlon.

  • “Cardinal on Guardrail” was taken by Aaron Dygart in 2015, on a bridge on his way to Ko‘olau Golf Club.

Pauahi Tower may be a business building in the heart of busy downtown Honolulu, but it’s currently showcasing photographs that will transport you to another, quite different space. If you ride the escalators up to the lobby, take a moment to look around. You’ll find yourself surrounded by a stunning array of works by four Hawaii photographers — Aaron Dygart, Valerie Yong Ock Kim, Wayne Levin and the late Bruce Erickson — in a group show on view through Thursday.

Titled “The Splendor of Light,” the photographs, about 10 by each artist, were taken from the 1970s to the present and mostly shot in film. Ranging from underwater views to natural and man-made landscapes, the works are unified by their celebration of light, a sense of entering new dimensions and by the close friendship, dating to the ’60s, of the artists.

‘The Splendor of Light’

An exhibit of photographs by Aaron Dygart, Bruce Erickson, Valerie Yong Ock Kim and Wayne Levin

>> Where: The Mezzanine Gallery at Pauahi Tower, Bishop Square, 1003 Bishop St.

>> When: Through Thursday. Closed Sunday; on view Monday-Thursday 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Wednesday from 2-3 p.m., Aaron Dygart and Bruce Erickson’s wife, Jackie, will be holding a “talk story” session.

>> Admission: Free

>> Curator Information: 271-0952

Last year, when Erickson fell severely ill after a long battle with terminal cancer, Levin, Dygart and Kim sought to organize one last show with him.

In November, Erickson became well enough to gather photos for the show. Along with vibrant color photos taken in countries he visited with his wife, Jackie, his work on view provides dramatic black-and-white details in scenery and landscape, as evinced by his “Loulu Palm,” a beautiful close-up of the tree endemic to Hawaii. “He had his own style, showing something real but also had this feeling of the abstract (about) the subject,” said Dygart.

Dygart himself shows an eye for the abstract, in his representations of lights at the Punahou Carnival and his “Cardinal on a Guardrail,” in which what appears to be a bird “was actually a splash of red paint on a bridge’s guard rail,” he said. “Wayne (Levin) was with me,” Dygart recalled. “He was taking photos of the mountains, while I just saw this guardrail and thought it would make an interesting image.”

Levin’s work in this exhibit showcases the underwater black-and-white film photography he has become renowned for. “I still shoot (in 35 mm) film because you can’t beat the beautiful optics,” said Levin, whose “Akule Fish Schools” at the National Academy of Sciences was selected as the best photography exhibit in Washington, D.C., last year.

Although they capture precise images from nature, “I hope my photos go beyond a scientific description by conveying a sense of mystery and wonder of the underwater world,” Levin said. In “Fish & Swimmers, Ironman Triathlon,” for example, “I really wanted to show the contrast of those two worlds — how peaceful it was underwater with the school of fish, while everything was so competitive up above.”

Kim’s color photos are mostly taken underwater, as well. In “What’s Left of Breath,” she said, “I wanted to show how it can be so silent underwater, even if there is rain or large waves.” She also found peace beneath the surface during hectic times in her personal life. “You retreat into this different world, and that photo shows what’s going on inside of me.”

Much of what resonates in this show also takes place beneath the surface, as with love itself. Although Erickson was too ill to attend the exhibit’s opening night, his friends were able to visit him at home afterward to celebrate. “We had such a nice time, talking and having our own party,” said Kim. On Feb. 8 Erickson died peacefully at home.

Expressing more than 40 years of friendship and shared artistic experience, “The Splendor of Light” is an opportunity to see each photographer’s strengths and styles, brought together for one last time.

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