Juried show by local artists explores themes foreign and familiar
For the beautiful, exciting new “Contact” show of contemporary Hawaii art in the Linekona Building of the Honolulu Museum of Art School, the tall windows in the first-floor gallery have been left uncovered, admitting daylight and views of the garden and city streets.
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For the beautiful, exciting new “Contact” show of contemporary Hawaii art in the Linekona Building of the Honolulu Museum of Art School, the tall windows in the first-floor gallery have been left uncovered, admitting daylight and views of the garden and city streets. This adds some natural illumination to the many brilliant, playful and surprising works in various media on display here, as well as an open, inclusive atmosphere.
“We wanted everyone to feel welcome,” said Isabella Ellaheh Hughes, a juror and curator of this third annual “Contact” exhibit, which runs through April 17.
Her words cast a friendlier light on the exhibit’s rather heavy “Foreign and Familiar” theme, as set forth by Hughes and Herman Pi‘ikea Clark, co-juror/curator, in the catalog. “‘Foreign and Familiar’ describes the intersection between indigenous, kama‘aina, and settler cultures in Hawai‘i and the impact this blending has had on shaping the character of our community and culture,” they wrote.
Criteria aside, the art speaks for itself.
>> Where: Honolulu Museum of Art School at Linekona, 1111 Victoria St.
>> When: Daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through April 17
>> Admission: Free
>> Info: contacthawaii.com, 532-8741
As it happened, Clark was standing near a 6-foot-tall former fiberglass surfboard shaped by Scott Fitzel into a leiomano, or sharks’ tooth club — an elegant piece that spoke to the blending of cultures in the islands while playing on the idea of weapons and sports.
“The shark was a large presence in indigenous Hawaiian culture,” said Hughes, indicating a painting by Russell Sunabe of a heroically lit and apparently airborne mano, back arched and ventral fins flexed. A vulnerable side of these predators, many of them endangered, was shown in Kai‘ili Kaulukukui’s painting of two tiny sharks swimming over a giant human hand cupped underwater.
The beauty and mystery of Hawaii’s fragile natural environment echo in many works, such as Linny Morris’ incandescent ocean video evoking Monet’s lily ponds, Andrew Yamauchi’s painting of a local man standing transfixed in a forest, KC Grennan’s botanical illustration in 19th-century style with Kamehameha butterflies in place of flowers, and Devin Oishi’s enchanting and disturbing photograph “Bridge Between Worlds,” in which a Japanese version of Alice in Wonderland balances on a rainbow above a marsh.
Conflict, hope and isolation resonate in Sheane Tam’s large, blue, somber portrait of a Chinese immigrant family, photographs of an elderly woman at home by Tomiko Jones, a video game, “Pacific Bomb,” by Joshua Iwi Lake and Sonny Ganaden, and “Another Day in Paradise,” a pair of astonishing straitjackets in aloha prints by AJ Feducia.
In techniques and jewel-like colors reminiscent of Hieronymous Bosch, Imaikalani Kanahele’s cross section of Kakaako, seen above and underground, gives the impression that we can see through layers of landscape and time if we look hard enough.
Looking at ethnicity and identity, Paradise Cove’s “Shop Ancestry DNA” has mannequins dressed in custom prints illustrating one’s ancestral places of origin as discovered through DNA analysis.
This collection of 300 pieces by 88 artists doesn’t feel cluttered, thanks to use of the building’s grand staircase, upstairs gallery, garden, where Jerry Vasconcellos has hung pineapples in a large tree, and entry porch, whose 108-year-old pillars are wrapped in contemporary island patterns by Colleen Kimura of Tutuvi. It’s a strong show, but it could have done more, Clark said.
“What I’ve seen in curation of the works is the artists’ confidence in their voices and use of material,” he explained. “But what’s missing, that you maybe would have seen 20-30 years ago, is a bit more rage.”
Clark attributed this lack to “the impact of the market — unless (they’re) happy with the status quo.”
One of the most moving works in the show spoke to his point. Bernice Akamine’s “Kalo” is a triangle of 87 kalo plants made with stones and newsprint leaves bearing maps of ahupuaa throughout the islands and sections of the petitions signed by 21,269 Hawaiians opposing U.S. annexation in 1897. Its spirit of protest, if not outright rage, made this corner of “Contact” fertile ground.